Closing arguments begin in Smart kidnapping trial

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The trial of a street preacher charged with kidnapping Elizabeth Smart has entered its final stage, with federal prosecutors making their closing arguments Thursday before a jury gets the case. The trial has lasted five weeks, and its not known how long jurors might take to decide whether Brian David Mitchell is guilty of kidnapping and raping Smart in 2002, when she was 14. If he is convicted, the 57-year-old street preacher could spend the rest of his life in prison. Mitchell’s attorneys don’t dispute the facts of the crime but contend Mitchell is mentally ill and can’t be held responsible. Jurors could also find him not guilty by reason of insanity, or they could find him not guilty. During the trial, Mitchell was removed daily from the courtroom for singing hymns and disrupting proceedings. Last week, he had a seizure in the holding room where he watches the trial on television. He spent several hours at a hospital before being returned to a jail. Prosecutors contend Mitchell is faking mental illness to avoid prosecution. “He’s a predatory chameleon with the cunning to adapt his behavior to serve his needs and desires at any given moment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Hagen said during closing arguments. Hagen told jurors that Mitchell acted deliberately when he took Smart from her home at knifepoint in the middle of the night and threatened her life if she cried out for help. Mitchell was also deliberate when he forced Smart into a polygamous marriage, raped her daily and held her captive for nine months, hiding her behind long robes, a head scarf and veil and a religious name. “He stripped her of her clothes, her identity and her innocence,” Hagen said. Smart was found March 12, 2003, walking a suburban street with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Barzee. Now 23, she has testified that she was forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell after the abduction, held prisoner on a tether and forced to endure nearly daily rapes. She also said Mitchell forced her to wear hand-sewn, religious-looking robes, to use drugs and alcohol, view pornography and to go to California against her will. Barzee pleaded guilty to Smart’s kidnapping last year and is serving 15 years in federal prison.

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