Jury convicts Smart kidnapper, rejects insanity
SALT LAKE CITY — A jury found a rambling street preacher guilty today of the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart in a case that has tugged at hearts around the nation ever since the Utah teenager was snatched from her bedroom and resurfaced nine months later.
Brian David Mitchell could face up to a life in prison when he is sentenced.
Smart and her family have hoped for the guilty verdict and a long sentence to end the ordeal that began when she was taken from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint and held captive for nine months when she was 14.
Smart, now 23, attended the entire trial and provided gripping testimony, describing how she woke up one night to the feel of a cold, jagged knife and being thrust into “nine months of hell” in a mountainside camp.
She said she was forced into a polygamous marriage and endured nearly daily rapes before she was found.
To the chagrin of the family, the case was delayed for years after Mitchell was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in state court and a judge refused to order involuntary medications. Federal prosecutors later stepped in and took the case to trial.
The trial turned on the question of Mitchell’s mental health — something experts have debated since his arrest 2003, when state court evaluators began to study his religious writings and behavior, including courtroom antics such as singing hymns and shouting at judges to repent.
His lawyers did not dispute that he kidnapped Smart but wanted him to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Such a verdict would have sent him to a prison mental hospital.
A parade of experts took the witness stand to say Mitchell had an array of diagnoses, from a rare delusional disorder and schizophrenia to pedophilia, anti-social personality disorder and narcissism.
Defense attorneys didn’t dispute that Smart was kidnapped and held captive but contended Mitchell is mentally ill and can’t be held responsible. Prosecutors countered that Mitchell was faking mental illness to avoid a conviction, labeling him a “predatory chameleon.”