Elizabeth Smart finishes Utah trial testimony
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Elizabeth Smart testified Wednesday that the street preacher accused of kidnapping her in 2002 frequently prayed that the teenager would fulfill her marital duty of having sex – something she said was “about the farthest thing” from her prayers.
Smart took the stand a third day and gave a spirited rejection of Brian David Mitchell’s defense contention that he suffers from an escalating mental illness and holds extreme religious beliefs that lead him to think he is directed by God.
Mitchell was a crude, vulgar, self-serving person who used religion to justify his actions, including her kidnapping and rape over nine months, she said, calling him a hypocrite.
“He was his number one priority, followed by sex, drugs and alcohol, but he used religion in all of those aspects to justify everything,” Smart said in a clear voice, confidently expressing her own religious knowledge.
“Nine months of living with him and seeing him proclaim that he was God’s servant and called to do God’s work and everything he did to me and my family is something that I know that God would not tell somebody to do,” she said. “God would never tell someone to kidnap her at knifepoint from their bed, from her sister’s side … never continue to rape her and sexually abuse her.”
Smart finished her testimony Wednesday morning after about 30 minutes of cross-examination by a defense lawyer for Mitchell, who’s accused of taking her from home knifepoint on June 5, 2002, when she was 14.
Mitchell, 57, is charged in federal court with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. If convicted, he faces a life sentence.
Now 23, Smart was found in March 2003 with Mitchell on the streets of a Salt Lake City suburb.
In previous testimony, she said during those nine months that she endured almost daily rapes and was forced to drink alcohol, use drugs and view pornography.
On the night of her kidnapping, Smart said Mitchell led her to a mountainside camp above Salt Lake City, where she was stripped of her red pajamas and dressed in white robes before being forced to marry him in a quickie ceremony Mitchell performed himself.
Mitchell also repeatedly threatened that Smart, her family, or anyone who tried to help her would be killed if she ever tried to escape.
Smart said she did reach out for help on one of the trips she made with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, from their campsite.
“Ms. Barzee took me into the bathroom at the Hard Rock Cafe and I tried to scratch ‘help’ into the bathroom stall,” Smart said.
Much of Wednesday’s testimony centered on Mitchell’s use of faith and his writing, “The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah,” a rambling tome that outlines his own brand of religions that mixed Bible teachings with the early doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and New Age philosophers.
Smart said she had read the book and Mitchell had spoken of it with her but that she had never heard him discuss his controversial ideas about faith – including polygamy – with anyone else.
During a short cross-examination, Smart was asked by federal public defender Robert Steele whether Mitchell’s use of prayers and blessings seemed familiar to her own practice of Mormonism.
Smart said there was some similarity, but Mitchell used spoken prayers to manipulate her and Barzee, including to have sex.
“The things that he would say in his prayers were things that I would never have said,” she replied.
“He would say, ‘Please bless me,’ (Smart), that I would be able to cope with my wifely duties and be able to rise to the occasion and fulfill my wifely duties. That is about the farthest thing from my prayers.”
Prosecutors also began questioning other witnesses Wednesday, including the Salt Lake City homicide detective who questioned Mitchell about Smart’s identity in a downtown library.
Following up on a tip about a girl whose eyes matched those in a picture of Smart, Detective Jon Richey said he asked Mitchell if the veil across the young girl’s face could be removed so he could verify that she was not the missing girl.
Richey pressed the issue in a conversation that lasted about 30 minutes, but Mitchell calmly and repeatedly refused, citing religious beliefs that prevented women from speaking or having their faces seen in public, said the retired officer who now works for another police agency.
Looking at the blue-eyed girl in the library that day, Richey said he “couldn’t make the connection” between her and pictures he’d seen of Smart. Richey said he has often replayed the encounter in his head, but still doesn’t believe he would have done anything differently.
“It was traumatizing to me that I was in a position where I could have ended the investigation in August 2002 and I didn’t,” he said after testifying. “I beat myself up on that. I have to live with it.”
Mitchell was not in the courtroom to hear to hear Smart testify. As on each previous day of the trial, he was removed for disrupting the proceedings by singing hymns. He watches the trial on closed-circuit television from a holding cell.
Rebecca Woodridge, whose mother was once married to Mitchell, said she visited her former stepfather in the Salt Lake County Jail on Tuesday. Mitchell spoke to her about the trial for the first time, saying he still considers Smart his wife and that the stories being told about him are lies, Woodridge said.
“He says he’s in God’s hands. He says the truth will come out later on down the road, but it will be too late,” said Woodridge, who attends the trial each day and believes Mitchell is seriously mentally ill. “He says, ‘I love my wife, and I know she loves me, but she’s being brainwashed by the people out there.”‘
The trial resumes Monday because of the Veterans Day holiday and is expected to last into December.