Elizabeth Smart abductor found guilty

A U.S. District Court jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, has found Brian David Mitchell guilty in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.
Brian David Mitchell enters the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City on Thursday before the jury began deliberations in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case. ((Colin E. Braley/Associated Press))

A U.S. District Court jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, has found Brian David Mitchell guilty in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.

After a six-week trial, the federal jury reached the verdict Friday morning after just five hours of deliberation. They had started deliberating just after 5:30 p.m. local time Thursday.

Mitchell, a 57-year-old street preacher, was charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of illegal sex. He now faces life in prison and will be sentenced on May 25.

Mitchell's attorney didn't dispute the facts, but argued his client's actions were coloured by delusional beliefs. He had asked the jury to find Mitchell not guilty by reason of insanity and send him to a prison mental hospital.  

Elizabeth Smart, now 23, was 14 when she was taken at knifepoint in June 2002 while sleeping. ((Associated Press))

A parade of experts testified Mitchell had an array of problems, from a rare delusional disorder and paranoid schizophrenia to pedophilia, anti-social personality disorder and narcissism.

Prosecutors, however, said Mitchell faked mental illness to avoid prosecution.

On Friday, acting U.S. attorney Carlie Christensen said she was pleased with the verdict and believed Smart's testimony likely swayed the jury.

Smart, now 23, was 14 when she was taken from her home at knifepoint in June 2002. Nine months later, motorists spotted her walking in a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell. Smart testified she had been raped almost daily by Mitchell and forced into a polygamous marriage with him.

Wanda Barzee pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in the Elizabeth Smart case. ((Douglas Pizac/Reuters))

The Smart family — Elizabeth, her sister and her parents — were sitting in the front row of the courtroom as the verdict was read. They all smiled, and Smart later hugged prosecutors. 

"I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened," Smart said outside the courthouse hours later.

During the trial, Mitchell was removed daily from the courtroom for singing hymns and disrupting proceedings. He sang through the reading of the verdict Friday.

Last week, he had a seizure in the holding room where he watched the trial on television. He spent several hours at a hospital before being returned to jail.

Wanda Eileen Barzee, Mitchell's estranged wife, pleaded guilty last year to federal and state charges in the kidnapping and is serving a sentence of 15 years.

Barzee, 65, testified she believed Mitchell's religious revelations led the couple to live homeless for nearly a decade, travelling the country on foot. She said she had obediently complied when Mitchell said God wanted him to "take a young girl by force" so they could practise polygamy.

Mitchell's former stepdaughter told reporters that she was shocked that jurors didn't see that he was mentally ill.

"He honestly believes God tells him to do these things," Rebecca Woodridge said. "He's upset and frustrated that the Lord is making him go through this."

With files from The Associated Press