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Jury selection in Mitchell kidnapping trial to begin today
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It wasn't until last year, during a federal court hearing that resulted in Mitchell being found competent for trial, that Smart publicly revealed details of her captivity. She said Mitchell raped her three to four times a day, gave her drugs and alcohol to lower her resistance, and threatened to kill her family if she tried to escape.

Monday, as jury selection begins for Mitchell's trial in U.S. District Court, Smart is again preparing to testify against the man who told her he was "God's voice on Earth."

Smart, who turns 23 on Wednesday, is interrupting an LDS Church mission to France to testify. Her father, Ed Smart, said last week both he and his daughter are ready for the trial to begin. Ed Smart said his daughter is "doing great. She's working hard. She said [the mission] has been the best thing she's ever done."

Smart's mother, Lois, also is slated to testify.

It was Lois Smart who, in November 2001, hired Mitchell — who called himself "Immanuel" — to do odd jobs at the Smarts' Federal Heights home for an afternoon. It was at that time, investigators believe, that Mitchell became obsessed with kidnapping Elizabeth.

Also listed as a prosecution witness is Smart's younger sister, Mary Katherine, now 18, who was 9 years old when she feigned sleep in the early hours of June 5, 2002, as Smart was taken from the bed they shared.

Months later, Mary Katherine Smart played a crucial role in the case by recalling that the kidnapper resembled Immanuel.

Leading up to Mitchell's arrest, "America's Most Wanted" featured a story on Smart's disappearance and Immanuel's possible involvement.

The show aired a sketch of the man, and Mitchell's sister contacted police to say the sketch resembled her brother. "America's Most Wanted" later ran a second segment with photos of Mitchell supplied by his sister.

On March 12, 2003, those images were fresh on the minds of Rudy and Nancy Montoya when they spotted three people clad in robes sitting on a State Street bus bench in Sandy.

The Montoyas decided the man looked a lot like the guy on "America's Most Wanted," and they called police. One minute later, Alvin and Anita Dickerson spotted the trio and also called police.

At trial, Smart is expected to give lengthy testimony about her time with Mitchell, 56, and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, 64.

Last October, during Mitchell's competency hearing, Smart spent just an hour and 40 minutes on the witness stand.

But the focus then was narrowly defined: Did Mitchell's obsession with religion feed his mental illness, as the defense claimed? Or, as prosecutors asserted, did he use religion to manipulate people and the legal system?

At the competency hearing, Smart set the stage by describing how Mitchell abducted her at knife-point and forced her to climb three miles into the foothills behind her home to his camp.

She testified that Barzee helped Mitchell prepare her for a marriage ceremony, which concluded with Mitchell raping her.

Smart was kept tethered to a tree for a time, but she said Mitchell later kept her from fleeing by making threats to kill her family. She also testified about traveling to San Diego for the winter, and Mitchell's failed attempt there to kidnap yet another girl.

Smart said Mitchell used religion as an excuse to have sex with her, often saying, "The Lord has commanded you to do this." She described Mitchell as "evil, wicked, manipulative, sneaky, slimy, selfish, greedy, not spiritual, not religious, not close to God."

Defense attorney Robert Steele has said Mitchell has a clear understanding of the charges and court procedures. On the other hand, Mitchell believes he is only being held "according to God's will" and will be miraculously released, Steele said following the competency hearing.

Earlier this year, Barzee pleaded guilty and is serving 15 years in prison for her part in the abduction. During her May sentencing hearing, Barzee said, "I know the gravity of my crimes and how severe they are. I'm just so sorry again for all the pain and suffering I caused on the Smart family."

shunt@sltrib.com

Q-and-A

What will jurors be asked to decide?

Jurors must determine whether Mitchell kidnapped Elizabeth Smart and also transported her across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. Mitchell faces up to life in prison on each count, if convicted.

Jurors will have the option of finding him not guilty by reason of insanity. If they do, Mitchell would likely be held in a secure mental-health facility until no longer deemed a threat to others.

Why has it taken so long to bring Mitchell to trial?

Following a battle over Mitchell's competency in state court, a judge in 2008 declared Mitchell incompetent to stand trial and ruled he couldn't be forcibly medicated to try and restore his mental health.

Federal prosecutors succeeded with a different approach to the competency issue. In addition to the usual mental health experts, they also sought testimony from lay witnesses — including people who had interacted with Mitchell at the Utah State Hospital when his guard was down — to show that his silence in the presence of doctors, and his disruptive hymn singing in the courtroom was an act.

Will Brian David Mitchell be in the courtroom at trial or testify?

It is unknown.

U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball has routinely removed Mitchell from court to a room equipped with an audio/video feed of the proceedings because he refuses to stop singing hymns. Elizabeth Smart was reportedly disappointed that Mitchell was removed during his October 2009 competency hearing because she wanted to face him. —

Other key players

Robert Steele

Lead defense attorney • Steele and his team — attorneys Wendy Lewis, Parker Douglas and Audrey James — all work for the Utah Federal Defender's Office, which represents indigent defendants.

While a public defender in the state court system, Steele represented a number of high-profile defendants — helping to spare two of them the death penalty.

Steven Douglas Thurman who was charged with capital murder for killing 11-year-old Adam Cook with a car bomb and thrill killer Jorge "George" Martin Benvenuto, charged with capital murder for randomly killing 18-year-old Zach Snarr and shooting and wounding Yvette Rodier, 18.

Felice "Phil" John Viti

Lead prosecutor • Viti's team includes assistant U.S. Attorneys Diana Hagen and David Backman, and Alicia Cook, a deputy Salt Lake County district attorney who was assigned to Mitchell's case in state court.

Viti worked as a prosecutor for seven years before becoming a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

After five years with the FBI, Viti joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah in 1995 and has spent time in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina assisting with criminal prosecutions. He also assisted in the investigation and prosecution of Saddam Hussein.

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