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Years later, Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping trial finally to begin

Published: Saturday, Oct. 30 2010 11:57 p.m. MDT

Elizabeth Smart talks to the press in 2008 outside the house of her grandmother.

Tim Hussin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In many ways, just looking at Elizabeth and her sister Mary Katherine today tells the story of how long "Elizabeth Smart" has been a household name throughout the nation, and how long their family has waited for justice to be served.

Around the world, the picture of Elizabeth in her "missing" poster, of her in her yellow vest jacket with her hair pulled back, became ingrained in people's minds.

Today, Elizabeth is 22. And Mary Katherine — who many remember as a little 9-year-old girl who feigned sleep while she watched her older sister being taken away at knifepoint from their own bedroom — is now an 18-year-old high freshman at Brigham Young University.

Now, after seven years of motions, appeals, competency evaluations, red tape and testimonies from experts, witnesses, and family members, the trial of Brian David Mitchell is finally scheduled to begin.

The former street preacher and self-proclaimed prophet accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting Elizabeth Smart will enter U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball's courtroom Monday for the start of what is expected to be at least a month-long trial.

Several key witnesses are expected to generate huge media attention, including Elizabeth Smart who is being flown back to Utah from her LDS mission in France early to testify. Mary Katherine is also expected to testify in court for the first time as is Lois Smart, their mother.

The Mitchell case has been as high profile as any trial that has ever occurred in Utah before, and is expected to attract international attention.

For Smart's family, it's an event they have waited for for many years. Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, who has been outspoken in the past about the case and about protecting the rights of his daughter, declined an interview with the Deseret News for this story because he did not want any last minute problems due to something he might say or any publicity it might generate. He only acknowledged he was anxious for the trial to begin.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the trial is what kind of case will the defense present? Will Mitchell's lawyers attempt to defend their client as innocent until proven guilty, despite seemingly insurmountable evidence against him? Or will it turn into a case of Mitchell's competency once again coming into question and whether he is not guilty by reason of insanity?

The case

Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom in 2002 when she was 14. She was found nine months later, wearing a wig and a sort of makeshift veil, walking along State Street in Sandy with a man who called himself Peter Marshall and his wife, whom he called Juliet. The "Marshalls" were later identified as Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Elizabeth at first identified herself to police as Augustine Marshall.

After 15 to 20 minutes of questioning, police were able to get Smart to admit who she was when she bowed her head and with tears in her eyes said, "Thou sayeth."

Mitchell and Barzee were charged in state court with five first-degree felonies, including aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated burglary, and one second-degree felony count of attempted aggravated kidnapping. The charges stemmed from the alleged abduction of Smart and the attempted abduction of Smart's cousin.

Mitchell and Barzee were both indicted by a grand jury in March of 2008 on federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of sex, and it is those charges Mitchell will stand trial for beginning Monday.

Barzee was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. Mitchell was originally declared competent and a trial date was set. But following a singing episode in court, a new competency hearing was ordered.

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