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Elizabeth Smart could testify before leaving for LDS mission

Published: Friday, Sept. 18 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Elizabeth Smart speaks to a crime victims conference at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 30, 2009.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

Elizabeth Smart, who has accepted a call to serve an LDS mission, may take the witness stand for the first time in the case against one of her accused kidnappers.

If prosecutors get their way, Smart would testify in two weeks in the proceedings against Brian David Mitchell.

"I think she's anxious to see things happen one way or another," her father, Ed Smart, said Thursday. "I think she is ready to testify on the issue."

On Sept. 25, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball will consider a motion filed by Mitchell's attorneys to preclude Elizabeth Smart from testifying at Mitchell's competency hearing.

But one of Mitchell's attorneys, Bob Steele, with the Utah Federal Defenders office, said the issue is more about getting information from prosecutors that his office is entitled to have, rather than trying to prevent Smart from taking the stand.

Steele said the defense has been trying since April to get a list of prosecution witnesses and some type of summary as to the scope of each of their testimonies.

"They've got to tell us what they want to use the witness for," Steele said. "I can make some guesses, but it's not my job to make guesses."

In filing their motions at the end of August to preclude 39 lay witnesses, including Smart, from testifying, Steele said it was really more about getting the government to give them some idea of why each person's testimony would be relevant to the competency hearing.

"We've always been open about talking about that with them. Always," Steele said. "We want to know what it is (witnesses) want to talk about. There are some things we won't have objections to."

That's why he hopes after prosecutors file their response to Mitchell's motion on Monday, questions about the scope of witness testimonies will be answered. At that point, he said it's likely the defense won't have any objection to Smart taking the witness stand.

"We believe that the time she spent with our client does give her some relevant evidence that she can testify to in a competency hearing," he said. "We certainly don't object to relevant evidence."

If Kimball does allow Smart to take the witness stand, a special evidentiary hearing will be held Oct. 1 for her to give her testimony. It will mark the first time she has taken the witness stand in any courtroom since Mitchell was originally charged in 2003.

The competency hearing is not scheduled to begin until Nov. 30, but the Oct. 1 date was set to allow Smart to testify before she begins serving an 18-month mission to Paris, France, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We're thrilled. It couldn't be better," Ed Smart told the Deseret News Thursday night. "It's away from all this. Some of the celebrity type issues won't be there. We couldn't be happier for her. She's very, very excited."

When Elizabeth Smart got her mission call letter a couple weeks ago, she opened it up and started screaming in excitement before she told the rest of her friends and family where she was going.

"She starts screaming and we're wondering, 'Where is it?' And then she starts reading it," Ed Smart said.

Although his daughter's story made headlines around the world and she was recognized everywhere she went after she was found, Elizabeth Smart has received no special treatment from the LDS Church because of her status, her father said.

"I'm sure they have treated her the same as they have all missionaries out there," Ed Smart said.

As for sending her to another country, Ed Smart said he was confident the church was aware of her situation and felt comfortable in calling her to serve in France.

Because of his daughter's nine months in captivity, Ed Smart said he was sure his daughter's experiences will actually help her on her mission.

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