Jury begins deliberations in Smart kidnapping caseA jury on Thursday began deliberating the fate of a nomadic street preacher charged with the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, after hearing federal prosecutors call him a “predatory chameleon” and defense lawyers say he's too delusional to be convicted.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A jury on Thursday began deliberating the fate of a nomadic street preacher charged with the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, after hearing federal prosecutors call him a “predatory chameleon” and defense lawyers say he's too delusional to be convicted.
The facts of the case aren't disputed: Even attorneys for Brian David Mitchell say there's no question their client kidnapped Smart from her Utah bedroom when she was 14 and raped her almost daily until she was found months later, walking a suburban street with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Barzee.
Defense attorney Robert Steele told jurors Thursday that Mitchell's actions were colored by long-standing delusional beliefs, and that the jury should find him not guilty by reason of insanity, sending him to a federal prison where he would receive treatment for mental illness.
Steele said even though Mitchell held Smart in “abominable conditions,” jurors must consider his mental state.
“You do not have a good man here,” Steele said. “You have a guy that's not very likable, but you still need to consider.”
Jurors — five women and seven men — also could convict Mitchell of the crime, or find him not guilty. They will keep deliberating Thursday until the judge sends them home for the night, or they reach a verdict.
During the trial, Mitchell was removed daily from the courtroom for singing hymns and disrupting proceedings. Last week, he had a seizure in the holding room where he watches the trial on television. He spent several hours at a hospital before being returned to a jail.
Prosecutors say the 57-year-old is faking mental illness to avoid prosecution.
“He's a predatory chameleon with the cunning to adapt his behavior to serve his needs and desires at any given moment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Hagen said during an 80-minute closing argument.
Hagen told jurors that Mitchell acted deliberately when he took Smart from her home at knifepoint in the middle of the night and threatened her life if she cried out for help. Mitchell was also deliberate when he forced Smart into a polygamous marriage, raped her daily and held her captive for nine months, hiding her behind long robes, a head scarf and veil and a religious name.
“He stripped her of her clothes, her identity and her innocence,” Hagen said.
Hagen said Mitchell didn't eschew mainstream society and live on the streets in the mid-1990s because of either a command from God or because a mental illness, but because he wanted to avoid work, child support payments and income taxes
He chose when to follow his so-called revelations from God, Hagen said.
“If he chose those ideas then he can certainly choose to conform his conduct to the demands of the law,” she said. “He can certainly choose not to rip a child away from her home and family, to rape and abuse her, to keep her bound like an animal, to rob her of her identity, her dignity and her childhood.”
Steele disputed that Mitchell could shape his behavior to conform, since he had the delusional belief that he was above everyone else. It was a delusion that drove him to break laws starting at age 16, when he was convicted of exposing himself to an 8-year-old girl.
“It's easy to say that he's just making it up,” Steele said during his hourlong closing argument. “But this is sustained, a long-term drive. He thinks he is special. This is not an overnight thing.”
Outside the courthouse Steele said Mitchell was waiting for the verdict in the holding cell where he watches court proceedings each day.
“He's pretty indifferent to what is going on,” Steele said.
Now 23, Smart has testified that she was forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell after the abduction, held prisoner on a tether and forced to endure nearly daily rapes. She also said Mitchell forced her to wear hand-sewn, religious-looking robes, to use drugs and alcohol, view pornography and to go to California against her will.
Barzee pleaded guilty to Smart's kidnapping last year and is serving 15 years in federal prison.