Accused Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Brian David Mitchell stood at a podium in 3rd District Court Thursday and repeated the words, “Not guilty,” six times as Judge Judith Atherton read the charges against him.
The judge then scheduled a three-week trial, set to begin Feb. 1, 2005.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Kim Clark said she plans to file numerous pre-trial motions, including several aimed at suppressing evidence, and some motions that will require testimony to be taken.
Clark also said she plans to investigate the state grand jury process that resulted in an indictment against Mitchell, which was unsealed Wednesday. The six felonies in the indictment replace the six charges originally brought against Mitchell, 50, by the Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office.
Mitchell’s wife and co-defendant Wanda Eileen Barzee, 58, also was indicted, but her case is on hold while she receives mental health treatment at the Utah State Hospital. Mitchell was found competent on Tuesday.
Clark said she rejected the grand jury indictment and requested a preliminary hearing for Mitchell a sort of mini-trial at which prosecutors must present enough evidence to meet a probable cause standard that a crime occurred and the defendant committed it. A preliminary hearing also allows the defense to test the credibility of witnesses.
Prosecutors claim a defendant prosecuted by an indictment is not entitled to a preliminary hearing, also called a probable cause hearing which means Elizabeth will not have to testify until trial.
Clark sought to postpone Thursday’s arraignment, and the entering of Mitchell’s pleas, saying she wanted time to investigate challenges to the indictment process. Clark added that because state grand juries are so seldom used, she was unfamiliar with her options.
Atherton denied Clark’s requests, noting that the grand jury process requires proof to a “clear and convincing” level, which is higher than the probable cause standard required at a preliminary hearing.
Atherton also set a schedule for attorneys to file briefs on anticipated motions. At a Dec. 3 scheduling hearing, Atherton will set hearings to argue those motions.
Mitchell and Barzee allegedly kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, then 14, at knifepoint from her Federal Heights home on June 5, 2002. She was allegedly held captive for nine months.
Elizabeth’s father, Ed Smart, attended Thursday’s hearing, but did not comment for news reporters.