Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

The Trial of Elizabeth Smart's Abductor

Elizabeth Smart, the 14-year-old daughter of devout Mormons, was kidnapped in the early hours of June 5, 2002; she would not be found until nine months later, the captive of a wandering street prophet with heretical Latter-day Saints beliefs named Brian David Mitchell. However, because of long debates over Mitchell's mental fitness to stand trial, justice did not begin to be delivered until November 2010 — with Smart, now 23, taking the stand over two days to describe in harrowing detail the physical and sexual abuse and sense of abandonment she allegedly suffered. The defense argued that Mitchell should be found not guilty by reason of insanity, but Mitchell's accomplice through those nine months, his wife Wanda Barzee, testified that he was a master at manipulating people through their religious beliefs. (In 2009, Barzee pleaded guilty to her role in the Smart abduction and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.) Mitchell could spend the rest of his life in jail if found guilty on charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and transporting a minor across state lines.