Day 1 of Mitchell case ends with 9 jurors kept, 8 out
After the first day of jury selection in Brian David Mitchell's trial, nine jurors were retained while another eight were dismissed. Much of the questioning focused on media consumption, experience with sexual abuse and thoughts about the insanity defense that attorneys for the man accused of kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart plan to raise. About noon, defense attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball to be "very wary" of instances when someone said they could set aside their bias after hearing media reports.
"I'm doing the best I can," Kimball said. "I'm thoroughly satisfied with the jurors I've kept."
Those jurors include a registered nurse who said she could find someone not guilty by reason of insanity and when it came to sentencing put "trust in the system that whatever they decided, that's whatever needed to be done with that person."
"She can follow this court's instructions," Kimball said. "She's intelligent, she appears to be a fair and reasonable person. So we will retain her."
The fourth juror of the day, a professor of animation at Utah Valley University, drew some attention from the judge based on his excitement to serve.
"I think it's only fair that everyone gets a fair trial," the juror said. "They're presumed innocent. It's my right and obligation to sit on a jury, so I would like to do so if possible."
In retaining him, Kimball said, "The only I question I have about him is this unusual desire not to avoid jury service."
The judge also kept a man who had been a Utah Highway Patrol trooper 20 years ago, an Intermountain Health Care employee who was 16 when Smart disappeared from her home and a Cedar City man who has a family member who was sexually abused but was open to hearing Mitchell's side of the story.
"We've heard an awful lot about one side of the story, but we haven't heard anything about his side of the story," he said.
The final juror questioned Monday was a teacher who wrote in his questionnaire he believed Smart "was probably brainwashed." However, based on his other answers, the judge thought the man "would be a good juror."
But several others were dismissed for their beliefs going into the trial.One juror did not agree with a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity and would never consider that verdict, saying, "I do believe that if it was proven they were insane, you know. I just ... I have a problem with it I guess, to be honest with you."
Another was dismissed after he said if a crime was premeditated "then apparently they know what they're doing."
Others were let go because their service would be a hardship or because their experience with sexual abuse was too close to the case. Others, still, were rejected because they had formed opinions on the case based on the extensive pre-trial media coverage.
The process will begin again Tuesday morning, when more jurors will be questioned. The court is looking to select 32 candidates for the jury and then will select the jury from that pool.