Thursday, October 8, 2009

Elizabeth Smart Testifies

I'm sure many of you remember the story of Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah and held captive for nine months back in 2002.

While scanning the headlines, I was surprised to come upon Smart's name once again. According to the following article from National Public Radio (, Smart's abductor, Brian David Mitchell, is undergoing proceedings to determine his competency to stand trial - for the third time since the abduction. One major difference in this third proceeding is that Elizabeth Smart herself was able to testify.

Elizabeth Smart Testifies Abductor Raped Her Daily
by The Associated Press

"Smart was poised and composed while testifying for just under two hours.
She was 14 when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint in the middle of the night. Shortly after her abduction, Smart said Mitchell took her to a mountain camp and performed a ceremony she said was intended to marry the two.

"After that, he proceeded to rape me," Smart said.

She said he held her captive with a cable attached to her leg that had
a 10-foot reach. That line was attached to another cable strung between two trees.

Smart said Mitchell plied her with alcohol and drugs to lower her resistance.

"He said that he would kill anybody that would come into the camp, or kill me if I ever tried to escape or yell out," Smart testified.

Smart said Mitchell was motivated by sex and used religion to get what he wanted.

Mitchell's defense attorneys had sought to limit Smart's testimony to her experiences with Mitchell, without her opinions about his mental state.

The defense objected to the 39 so-called "lay witnesses" proposed by prosecutors, including Mitchell's family, friends or workers at Utah State Hospital, because they lacked the expertise to evaluate competency.

In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball rejected the argument as it relates to Smart, saying her testimony may help the court settle differences in the findings of experts who have evaluated Mitchell.

Experts have split opinions over Mitchell's competency and have relied on statements from others — including Smart — and past evaluations to prepare reports for the court. Kimball's ruling said Mitchell has been uncooperative with evaluators and refused to participate in diagnostic tests.

In the state court system, Mitchell was twice found incompetent to stand trial."

Personally, I was surprised to hear that Mitchell's trial is still going on, some 7 years after the crime was committed; let alone that his competency to stand trial has yet to be determined. What is your reaction to hearing this update on Elizabeth Smart's case? What impact do you think the extremely lengthy trial process may have on the number of sexual assault cases that are reported and ultimately prosecuted? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

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