SALT LAKE CITY – Jurors in the kidnapping case of Elizabeth Smart must decide whether a nomadic street preacher who snatched her from her bedroom when she was 14 is too delusional to be convicted — or just good at faking mental illness.
After a five-month trial, jurors started their second day of deliberations on Friday.
The facts of the case are undisputed: Even attorneys for Brian David Mitchell say there's no question he kidnapped Smart and raped her almost daily until she was found months later, walking a suburban street with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife.
But defense attorney Robert Steele says Mitchell's actions were colored by long-standing delusional beliefs. He told jurors Thursday that they should find Mitchell not guilty by reason of insanity and send him to a prison mental hospital.
Jurors also could convict Mitchell of the crime or find him not guilty. They got the case Thursday and deliberated for about three hours before adjourning for the night.
The Smart family plans to wait for the verdict at the courthouse, and Mitchell is there in a holding cell. Jurors were bused in by security.
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 say the 57-year-old 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 an 80-minute closing argument.
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.
Hagen said Mitchell didn't eschew mainstream society and live on the streets in the mid-1990s because of either a command from God or because a mental illness, but because he wanted to avoid work, child support payments and income taxes.
He chose when to follow his so-called revelations from God, Hagen said.
"If he chose those ideas then he can certainly choose to conform his conduct to the demands of the law," she said. "He can certainly choose not to rip a child away from her home and family, to rape and abuse her, to keep her bound like an animal, to rob her of her identity, her dignity and her childhood."
Steele disputed that Mitchell could shape his behavior to conform, since he had the delusional belief that he was above everyone else. It was a delusion that drove him to break laws starting at age 16, when he was convicted of exposing himself to an 8-year-old girl.
"It's easy to say that he's just making it up," Steele said during his hourlong closing argument. "But this is sustained, a long-term drive. He thinks he is special. This is not an overnight thing."
Outside the courthouse Steele said Mitchell was waiting for the verdict in the holding cell where he watches court proceedings each day.
"He's pretty indifferent to what is going on," Steele said.
Now 23, Smart 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.
Smart has attended the trial, taking a break from serving a religious mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Paris.
Mitchell's estranged wife, Wanda Barzee, pleaded guilty to Smart's kidnapping last year and is serving 15 years in federal prison.
Associated Press reporter Josh Loftin contributed to this report from Salt Lake City.