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Elizabeth Smart cross-examined by defense

Published November 10, 2010 3:19 pm

Insanity defense • Attorneys ask about Mitchell's invocations of God.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

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.

Smart recounted Mitchell's calm demeanor when a Salt Lake City detective looking for Elizabeth Smart approached the trio in a downtown library and asked Smart to lift the veil she was wearing. The detective, who is slated to testify later Wednesday, left when Mitchell told him Smart couldn't lift her veil for religious reasons.

Smart during direct testimony Wednesday said that Mitchell, when alone with her and Barzee, would espouse religious views that he was a prophet, the Davidic King. But Smart also said he never stated those views in any situation that would lead to his detection as a kidnapper.

Defense attorney Steele, focusing on Mitchell's beliefs, asked Smart whether Mitchell had ever said others were not "ready to receive my testimony."

Smart replied yes to that question, and also recounted a loud religious argument at a Salt Lake City party the trio attended in the summer of 2002 in which Mitchell yelled "repent" while being expelled from the home.

Smart under cross-examination described a time when Mitchell experienced a seizure in the middle of raping her. She also recounted his views on the LDS Church.

"He said that the LDS Church was the true church but they were also the most wicked church because they had the most truth and knowledge and that they went against it," Smart testified. "And from the time of the death of President [Ezra Taft] Benson that it had led astray, but that it still was God's church."

Mitchell believed he would guide the church "back to the correct path," Smart testified.

Steele also asked about Mitchell's motivation behind the failed kidnapping attempt of a California girl during the time the trio spent living there.

Smart affirmed Mitchell had said "I have to do everything I can, but if the Lord doesn't open a way then it's not something I need to do." She also confirmed that Mitchell referenced a test of his faith in connection with the attempt.

Smart's cross-examination concluded just before 10:30 a.m., followed by three questions on redirect from prosecutor Felice Viti.

To read part one of Elizabeth Smart's testimony on Nov. 8, click here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50632966-76/smart-viti-yes-defendant.html.csp

To read part two of Elizabeth Smart's testimony on Nov. 9, click here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50639245-76/smart-viti-yes-cable.html.csp

To read part three of Elizabeth Smart's testimony on Nov. 10, click here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50647494-76/elizabeth-mitchell-smart-viti.html.csp

About the case

Brian David Mitchell is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor for the June 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart. The self-proclaimed prophet took the then-14-year-old Smart from her Salt Lake City home to make her a plural wife, prosecutors have said.

Smart has testified Mitchell raped her repeatedly during her nine months in captivity — which included a journey to California — before she was spotted with Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, in Sandy in March 2003.

Earlier this year, Barzee pleaded guilty and is serving 15 years in prison for her part in the abduction. She is listed as a potential witness for Mitchell's defense.

Mitchell's attorneys are arguing at trial he is not guilty of the crimes by reason of insanity. Prosecutors have told jurors Mitchell is calculating, not crazy.