Mental Illness Now The Focus Of Smart Kidnapping Trial


Elizabeth Smart's testimony of her knifepoint abduction and nine months of sexual abuse in the clutches of a self-proclaimed prophet captured national attention last week, says the Salt Lake Tribune. University of Utah law Prof. Daniel Medwed called Smart a “very strong, credible witness” that supported the prosecution's contention that Brian David Mitchell was not insane when he committed kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. Now that Smart has told her story, the focus of Brian David Mitchell's trial promises to be less about what happened to the then-14-year-old girl than why it happened.

To win an acquittal, Mitchell's lawyers must prove that their client suffered from such a severe mental illness or mental defect that he could not tell right from wrong or he was delusional.The defense team hasn't argued with what attorney Parker Douglas called the “horrifyingly disturbing facts of this case.” Instead, attorneys have focused on Mitchell's alleged history of mental problems and bizarre behavior. A defense expert has diagnosed Mitchell – who equates himself with Jesus Christ or God and believes he will have a major role in the outcome of an end-time battle between good and evil – as paranoid schizophrenic and said there are grandiose and persecutory aspects to his illness. Prosecutors have psychiatrists and psychologists on their potential witness list, but they may also call lay witnesses to prove Mitchell is faking mental illness. Mitchell's repeated singing in court, attorneys say, is part of his smoke screen. If Mitchell, 57, were found not guilty by reason of insanity – a strategy used in fewer than 1 percent of cases that rarely succeeds – federal law says he must be committed to a “suitable facility.”

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