Saturday, September 23, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, September 23, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Jury Rejects Insanity Defense to|Convict Elizabeth Smart’s Captor

(CN) - A jury in Utah convicted the self-proclaimed prophet who kidnapped and raped Elizabeth Smart when she was 14 after taking her from her family home at knife-point more than eight years ago.

Street preacher and aspiring polygamist Brian David Mitchell, or Immanuel David Isaiah as he called himself, will go to prison instead of the mental health facility for which his defense lobbied.

After five hours of deliberation, the 12-member jury ruled Mitchell, 57, was guilty on two counts: kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity.

Smart, now 23, hugged federal prosecutors and shared smiles with her family following the verdict. Her parents were by her side throughout the 20-day trial, which she attended while on break from a Mormon mission in France.

Smart's father, Ed, gave a thumbs-up while exiting the at-capacity courtroom.

"It's real," he said.

Ed Smart had used the same words when his daughter was found in a Salt Lake City suburb about nine months after Mitchell took her from the family's home in an affluent mountainside neighborhood.

Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, kidnapped and held Smart at a makeshift camp in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. Mitchell claimed God commanded him to take the teenager as his bride.

With the onset of winter, the couple took Smart via Greyhound bus to Southern California in search of another wife.

Smart testified that she was chained to trees and raped daily, forced to drink alcohol and adhere to a sex schedule with Mitchell. She also said the couple made her to watch them have sex and threatened to kill her family if she fled.

Police found Smart in 2003, clad in a wig and sunglasses after the trio left a Wal-Mart store in Sandy, Utah - only miles from her family's home. The group had returned from California following Mitchell's failed attempt to take another young Latter-day Saint girl. They were restocking on supplies to return to the mountain camp.

Mitchell, who was removed from the courtroom every day of the trial's proceedings for singing hymns, sang loudly and held his hands in a prayer position while the verdict was read.

"He Died, the Great Redeemer Died," would be his curtain call.

Mitchell's step-daughter, Rebecca Woodridge, said she was disappointed with the verdict.

"He honestly believes God tells him to do these things," Woodridge said to reporters. "He's upset and frustrated that the Lord is making him go through this."

Acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen praised Smart and the jury's conclusion.

"The beginning and ending of this story is attributed to a woman with extraordinary courage and extraordinary determination, and that woman is Elizabeth Smart," Christensen told reporters outside of Frank E. Moss Courthouse.

"Her ability and willingness to recall the graphic details of her nine-month captivity - and she did it with candor and clarity and truthfulness - I think moved all of us," she said. "She is a remarkable young woman."

Over the course of the four-week trial, Mitchell's family members, former co-workers and friends, mental health professionals, Smart, and her mother and sister all took the stand to testify.

Barzee, 64, cooperated with prosecutors and testified early in the proceedings. She is serving a 15-year sentence after pleading guilty earlier this year to her role in the kidnapping.

The jury, five woman and seven men, deliberated for three hours on Wednesday evening and reconvened this morning. They needed only two additional hours to rule Mitchell sane.

"He is not a good person," Mitchell's attorney, Robert Steele, said to jurors during closing arguments in what the defense had hoped be ruled as guilt by insanity.

Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced May 25.

Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.