Elizabeth Smart Archive

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Defense witnesses flesh out Brian Mitchell’s earlier life

Mitchell intimidating, not delusional, witness says

Jurors in the Brian David Mitchell trial on Monday were watching a two-hour video of an FBI agent and a police officer interrogating Mitchell following his arrest for the abduction of Elizabeth Smart.

Prosecutors say Mitchell’s reactions — and his control of the situation — show he was not insane in 2002 when he abducted the then-14-year-old Smart from her Salt Lake City home and raped her over the nine months she spent as his captive.

Smart joined the courtroom gallery Monday to observe testimony. Her father, Ed Smart, has said she plans to view the rest of the trial as a spectator now that her testimony has concluded.
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– Source / Full Story: Mitchell intimidating, not delusional, witness says , Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 15, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Until Monday, federal jurors’ only experience of Brian David Mitchell was of a man — eyes closed, hands clasped in prayer, softly singing hymns — whom they see for just moments each morning before the judge orders him from the courtroom.

But a different personality emerged as prosecutors played video recordings depicting the homeless street preacher and accused kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart talking to a judge and police officers.

Video of Mitchell’s February 2003 court appearance in San Diego for breaking into a church shows a contrite and apologetic Mitchell giving a false name and lying about “staying with friends” to avoid more jail time.

Mitchell claims the break-in occurred after he got drunk for the first time in 22 years. “Like Jonah getting swallowed by the whale, it’s turned my life around,” Mitchell tells a judge before his release.

Smart has testified Mitchell, now 57, then returned to the primitive campsite where he and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, were keeping the then-14-year-old girl captive.

Another video, recorded March 12, 2003, the day Mitchell and Barzee were arrested in Sandy with Smart, shows Mitchell fending off questions from an FBI agent and a Salt Lake City police detective.

During the two-hour interrogation, detective Cordon Parks and agent Jeffrey Ross come at Mitchell with everything in their arsenal — they yell, they befriend, they belittle, they curse, they quote scripture, they call him a pedophile and a sinner — but Mitchell parries with evasiveness and his own scripture quotations.

In the end, Mitchell admits little more than that he spent the past nine months with the girl.

Mitchell gives the officers his correct date of birth but says his name is Immanuel David Isaiah and gives his home address as “heaven.”

He refuses to admit abducting Smart from her Federal Heights home at knifepoint in the early hours of June 5, 2002.

Mitchell says he is the Lord’s servant, that God “delivered” Smart to him and that the Lord told him she was 18. Mitchell denies “marrying” Smart, saying instead, “She was sealed to me as my wife.”

Asked if he had sex with the girl, Mitchell replies: “These are very personal and private questions.”

At this point, Mitchell appears relaxed, sitting back in his chair with his feet up on another chair.

Threatened with life in prison, Mitchell says: “Do you understand God has the power to deliver me out of the hands of all my enemies?”

The officers tell Mitchell if he confesses, Smart will not have to relive the past nine months on the witness stand.

“She’s had a glorious experience,” Mitchell counters. “We’ve had many trials and tribulations. She knows who I am. She knows I’m a servant of the Lord.” That statement caused Smart and her father, Ed Smart, to exchange looks of amazement in court.

Parks accuses Mitchell of “laying the groundwork” for an insanity defense, so he’ll end up the state hospital rather than prison. Mitchell says he is willing to suffer whatever God has in store for him, but that a mental hospital would be “the worst thing to happen to me.”

Asked if God told him to take Smart on the fall day in 2001 when he worked on the family’s roof and raked leaves, Mitchell accuses the officers of posing “trick questions meant to entrap me.”
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– Source / Full Story: Mitchell videos reveal another personality to jurors , Stephen Hunt, Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 15, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

For full coverage, including live updates, of the Elizabeth Smart Kidnap Trial see the Salt Lake Tribune

Defense witnesses flesh out Mitchell’s earlier life

While working with Brian David Mitchell at O.C. Tanner during the early 1990s, Doug Larsen came to consider his fellow tool-and-die cutter “close to being a brother.”

“He and I hit it off really well. We had a lot of similar views about the world and religion,” Larsen testified Tuesday for the defense at Mitchell’s trial in the alleged kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.

Several years later, Larsen spotted a transformed, biblical-looking Mitchell begging for money at Main and South Temple streets — a man who now refused to even acknowledge his former friend.

Larsen, hoping to find out what Mitchell had done throughout the years, said: “You gave that guy a ‘God bless you’ for 50 cents. Will you give me five minutes of your time for five dollars?”

Mitchell, money in hand, looked at him and said, “The Lord be praised. God bless you.”

Larsen said, “I will pray for you,” then started to walk away. Mitchell turned and, over his shoulder, said, “And I will pray for you.”

Before that, Mitchell had been a clean-cut and “utterly sincere” member of the LDS Church, who was often ridiculed by other workers at the Salt Lake City jewelry company for singing hymns and zealously expressing his religious opinions. But after Mitchell quit in 1994 and became a follower of a naturopathic health concept called lymphology, Larsen said he lost track of him for four years prior to the Main Street encounter.

Prosecutors rested their case in chief Tuesday morning after four days of testimony that laid out the facts of Smart’s alleged kidnapping and her nine months of captivity and sexual abuse at age 14 in the hands of Mitchell, 57, and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, 65.

Now, with the start of the defense case, comes what U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball has identified as the real focus of the trial.

Larsen’s testimony — and more to come this week from other defense witnesses who knew Mitchell prior to Smart’s June 2002 disappearance — is designed to illustrate Mitchell’s alleged descent into madness.

The defense is asking jurors to find Mitchell not guilty by reason of insanity. It also has the burden of proving he was insane at the time of the alleged crime.

To that end, Mitchell’s father and other family members are slated to testify Wednesday about Mitchell’s childhood and teenage years. Barzee, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor and is serving 15 years in prison, could take the witness stand as early as Thursday.

She is being held in the Davis County jail as she waits to give her testimony.
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– Source / Full Story: Defense witnesses flesh out Mitchell’s earlier life , Stephen Hunt, Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 16, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Elizabeth Smart finishes Utah trial testimony

SALT LAKE CITY — Elizabeth Smart testified Wednesday that the street preacher accused of kidnapping her in 2002 frequently prayed that the teenager would fulfill her marital duty of having sex – something she said was “about the farthest thing” from her prayers.

Smart took the stand a third day and gave a spirited rejection of Brian David Mitchell‘s defense contention that he suffers from an escalating mental illness and holds extreme religious beliefs that lead him to think he is directed by God.

Mitchell was a crude, vulgar, self-serving person who used religion to justify his actions, including her kidnapping and rape over nine months, she said, calling him a hypocrite.

“He was his number one priority, followed by sex, drugs and alcohol, but he used religion in all of those aspects to justify everything,” Smart said in a clear voice, confidently expressing her own religious knowledge.

“Nine months of living with him and seeing him proclaim that he was God’s servant and called to do God’s work and everything he did to me and my family is something that I know that God would not tell somebody to do,” she said. “God would never tell someone to kidnap her at knifepoint from their bed, from her sister’s side … never continue to rape her and sexually abuse her.”
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– Source / Full Story: Elizabeth Smart finishes Utah trial testimony, Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Elizabeth Smart cross-examined by defense

Wednesday marked the third straight day of testimony given by Elizabeth Smart at the trial of her alleged kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, and the first day the 23-year-old faced cross-examination from the defense.

But defense attorney Robert Steele’s cross-examination of Smart was brief, just 40 minutes. It was also was polite and fairly non-confrontational, with Steele mostly seeking to clarify statements Smart made during direct testimony.

Smart at one point thanked Steele — who at times referred to Smart’s interview with psychiatrist Park Dietz soon after her rescue in March 2003 — for refreshing her memory. Yet Smart showed a touch of defiance at times, most notably near the end of Steele’s questions, when he asked about her description of Mitchell waking her in the night with a knife to her throat during her 2002 abduction from her Salt Lake City home.

“That first night in your bedroom, you describe feeling something,” Steele said. “It was the knife, cold, sharp, him saying ‘Don’t make a sound. Come with me,’ it’s a clear, clear threat to harm you, if you don’t?”

“Yes,” Smart replied.

“And it doesn’t necessarily matter what he says next, it’s a threat to kill you?” asked Steele.

With an edge to her voice, Smart replied: “I have no other idea how to interpret it with a knife at my neck.”

“Is it possible that time, not the other times, that he said ‘I don’t want to have to hurt you and your family’,” Steele asked. “Still a threat to kill you, but were those were his words?”

“It was possible,” Smart said, this time with less heat.

Over the past two days, Smart has testified about the harrowing nine months of captivity she spent with Mitchell, 57, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 65. She has recounted Mitchell subjecting her to near-daily rapes and forcing her to drink alcohol and smoke drugs after abducting her.

Prosecutors arguing against Mitchell’s insanity defense have elicited testimony from Smart demonstrating Mitchell was focused on sex, able to change his appearance and mannerisms to avoid detection, and had carefully planned her kidnapping.
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– Source / Full Story: Elizabeth Smart cross-examined by defense, elizabeth neff, aaron falk, stephen hunt and sheena mcfarland, Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 10, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog