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Elizabeth Smart's Abductor Guilty of Kidnapping, Rape

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on December 13, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Guilty as charged. In the drawn-out, highly-publicized trial of Elizabeth Smart's abductor, a federal jury in Salt Lake City found Brian David Mitchell guilty of kidnapping and multiple instances of rape of the then 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart.

Mitchell, 57, may now face life in prison. The trial saw the prosecution's case rest on two key witnesses: three days of testimony by Elizabeth Smart, and testimony by Mitchell's estranged wife Wanda Barzee who is currently serving a 15-year sentence stemming from the abduction.

The defense of Brian David Mitchell was simple: he was insane at the time of the abduction and thus unable to appreciate the nature of his actions. Mitchell's defense team argued that he believed he was acting under a command from God when he took Smart from her bed in 2002 and even went so far as to classify him as, "not a good person," according to The Los Angeles Times.

An insanity defense rests on the legal notion that you cannot find someone legally responsible for a crime that they did not understand or did not think they were wrong in doing. If successful, it is not equivalent to a not guilty verdict but typically finds the defendant being sentenced to a mental institution or some type of psychiatric evaluation.

In the case of Elizabeth Smart's abductor, the defense fell short of convincing the jury that a mental delusion was the cause of his actions. Prosecutors in the case argued that Mitchell was not only aware of what he was doing but used the illusion of mental illness to hide behind his actions. The Elizabeth Smart jurors less than 12 hours to find Brian David Mitchell guilty.

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