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Smart's Kidnapper Guilty; Jury Rejects Insanity

Smart's Kidnapper Guilty; Jury Rejects Insanity

Elizabeth Smart arrives at the federal court house for the closing arguments in the trial of Brian David Mitchell Thursday, Dec. 9 2010 in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Colin E Braley) (Colin E. Braley - AP)

San Jose Mercury News via YellowBrix

December 10, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal court jury today found Brian David Mitchell guilty in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart.

The 12-member jury reached their verdict at 10:30 a.m. following five hours of deliberations that began Thursday evening.

Mitchell was convicted of interstate kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity for allegedly holding Smart captive for nine months, including near-daily rapes and a trip to California and back. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 25, which allows time for a presentencing report to be completed.

Mitchell was present in the courtroom while the verdict was read, singing the LDS hymn “He Died. The Great Redeemer Died.”

Defense attorneys had argued Mitchell was insane at the time he kidnapped a then-14-year-old Smart from her bed at knifepoint to make her a plural wife. A not guilty by reason of insanity verdict would have meant Mitchell, a self-described prophet preparing to battle the anti-Christ, would have gone to a mental health facility rather than prison.

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Brian David Mitchell enters the federal court house Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 in Salt Lake City. Mitchell is on trial for the June 5, 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. (AP Photo/Colin E Braley) (Colin E. Braley - AP)

Attorneys wrapped up the trial at 5:35 p.m. Thursday afternoon, handing the case to the five women and seven men who have sat through weeks of testimony. The jury deliberated Mitchell’s fate for three hours before adjourning for the night.

In the face of damning evidence his client kidnapped, raped and degraded Smart, Mitchell’s attorney had difficulty saying anything positive about the 57-year-old, self-proclaimed prophet in his closing arguments Thursday.

“He is not a good person,” Robert Steele told jurors.

Instead, Steele claimed that Mitchell was mentally ill and suffering from the delusion that he was commanded by God when he abducted Smart.

“I don’t think he has the free will to say, ‘God, I’m not going to do it.’” Steele said.

During their closing arguments, prosecutors argued against the notion that Mitchell was insane when he committed the crimes.

U.S. District Attorney Diana Hagen told jurors that, according to trial testimony, Mitchell disobeyed revelations from God “all the time.” “And if he can choose to disobey God, he can choose not to rip a child away from her family, keep her bound like an animal and rob her of her dignity, identity and her childhood,” she said.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball instructed jurors Thursday that, for an insanity verdict, they must find Mitchell has presented “clear and convincing evidence that, as a result of severe mental disease or defect, he suffered from a delusional belief that he was acting under the direct command of God.”

Attorneys for both sides presented witnesses and experts to bolster their arguments during the course of the 20-day trial. The trial’s most gripping testimony came when Smart, 23, told jurors about the night Mitchell abducted her and the harrowing time she spent with him and his wife, Wanda Barzee.

During her three days on the witness stand, Smart spoke in a matter-of-fact tone to jurors, who listened in rapt attention.

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