A tiny smile appeared on Elizabeth Smart’s face Friday morning as Brian David Mitchell was pronounced guilty of kidnapping her when she was 14.
The smile grew as a U.S. District Court clerk announced jurors had also convicted Mitchell of transporting her across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
How much time could Brian David Mitchell spend in prison?
Up to life. Since there is no parole in the federal system, Mitchell would not be freed if a life sentence were imposed. If he receives a lesser sentence, he can earn up to 54 days off a year for good behavior.
How will the judge decide?
A federal probation officer will write a presentence report for U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball to review. The report will include details about the crime; its impact on the victim, Elizabeth Smart; Mitchell’s criminal history; whether he accepts responsibility for his actions; his family history; his physical, mental and emotional health; any history of drug or alcohol abuse; his education and work history; and his financial condition and ability to pay any fines.
Kimball will consider the report and federal sentencing guidelines. He must also give Mitchell, his attorney, the prosecutor and Smart the opportunity to speak.
Where will Mitchell serve his time?
Kimball can recommend where Mitchell should serve his time, but the federal Bureau of Prisons has the final call. There are no federal prisons in Utah, so Mitchell will be placed in an out-of-state facility.
The factors that will determine Mitchell’s placement include the level of security and staff supervision he requires; the medical care he needs; and his program needs, such as substance abuse treatment and medical or mental health care.
Administrative factors — the bed space available at a prison, Kimball’s recommendation and necessary security measures — also will be considered by the BOP.
Moments later, as Mitchell was led singing from the courtroom for one final time during the five-week trial, the 23-year-old Smart was nearly beaming as she stood with her parents, Ed and Lois Smart.
Elizabeth Smart later triumphantly told a small army of reporters assembled outside the federal courthouse: "I am so thrilled with the verdict. But not only that, I am so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what’s happened to them."
Thanking the public for their prayers and support, Smart added she hoped her experience shows that "it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened, and that we can speak out and we will be heard."
Mitchell’s convictions end an eight-year saga that has left its mark on Utahns. Thousands of citizens mobilized to search for the missing Salt Lake City girl — a process that inspired later large-scale searches for other missing children. The Smarts never gave up hope, although many presumed their daughter was dead and were astonished when she was found nine months later in the company of Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.
Smart’s parents said Friday they were grateful their daughter survived a knife-point abduction, near-daily rapes and many other humiliations at the hands of the 57-year-old defendant. They also said they were proud she testified so courageously about her nine-month ordeal, which included a trip to California and back.
"Doesn’t she glow?" Lois Smart asked the crowd, following Friday’s verdict.
She added, "I think this is an exceptionally victorious day for us all, as mothers, as women, as daughters. ..."
Lois Smart noted that her youngest son was just a toddler when his sister was kidnapped from their home in the early hours of June 5, 2002. "He is now 12, and this has been his entire life, so we’re glad it’s over," she said.
Ed Smart said of his daughter: "She is home; she is well; and the system works."
Smart plans to return to France next week to complete her mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But her church duties will be finished in five months, her father said, and she plans to attend Mitchell’s May 25 sentencing before Judge Dale Kimball.
Mitchell faces up to life in prison.
Friday was the only time during the 21-day trial that Mitchell has not been ejected from the courtroom for singing hymns. Defense attorney Robert Steele attempted to quiet Mitchell on this occasion by whispering, "Please stop singing."
Instead, eyes closed and hands clasped as if in prayer, Mitchell sang louder as the judge entered and began addressing the court, and as court clerk Kim Jones later announced the verdicts.
The hymns referred to the crucifixion of Christ, which may be apt choices given that Mitchell believes he is being martyred in Christ-like fashion by the government, according to trial testimony.
A five-woman, seven-man jury convicted Mitchell after three hours of deliberation on Thursday night and another two hours Friday.
Steele had urged jurors to find Mitchell not guilty by reason of insanity. He claimed his client was severely mentally ill and acting under the delusional belief that God had ordered him to abduct Smart to make her a plural wife.
Barzee had testified that Mitchell had revelations that he would take at least seven plural wives and battle the anti-Christ to restore the Mormon church to its true polygamous beginnings. Prior to abducting Smart, Barzee said, Mitchell had a revelation telling him to acquire wives by taking young girls by force.
Several jurors said during a post-verdict interview with reporters that they believed Mitchell was mentally ill but did not find he suffered from a "severe" mental illness, which is required for an insanity defense. The jurors also found Mitchell knew right from wrong, which exempts him from claiming to be insane.
"If God said to go get her, would he dress in black with a buck knife instead of his religious robes?" said one of the jurors. "I did feel this guy has got a mental illness — it’s not normal to walk across the country [pulling] a cart — but I do think he knew what he was doing was wrong and against the law."
U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen called the verdict "a very historic and momentous day in the criminal justice history of this state."
Christensen also said she was impressed with the extraordinary courage and determination of Smart and the "candor, clarity and truthfulness" of her trial testimony.
During her three days of testimony, Smart told jurors the graphic details of how Mitchell sexually assaulted and degraded her.
With the trial over, the possibility of an appeal is looming. But Steele said any appeal would address Kimball’s refusal to move the trial to another state, rather than any potential errors that occurred during the trial. The defense had asked for a change of venue early on, claiming Mitchell could not get a fair trial in Utah due to intense publicity about the case.
But Steele added that he questions the wisdom of putting Mitchell through another trial "where the standard is so high, no matter where you are." He noted that, contrary to other criminal proceedings, the defense has the burden of proof in insanity cases.Next Page >
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