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Alleged mastermind behind Elizabeth Smart kidnapping to stand trial

By Ashley Hayes, CNN
  • Brian David Mitchell's attorneys will use insanity defense
  • The defense tried to move the trial, citing publicity in the case
  • Smart says she was repeatedly assaulted whe she was held captive

(CNN) -- More than eight years after a Utah teenager disappeared from her bedroom on a summer night, the trial of the man authorities believe masterminded her kidnapping is expected to get underway Thursday.

Brian David Mitchell, 57, is accused of snatching then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart at knifepoint from her family's Salt Lake City home on June 5, 2002 -- a crime that shocked the nation and the city, which was then basking in the glow of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games a few months earlier.

Mitchell faces federal charges of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines for improper purposes. Prosecutors in Salt Lake City are expected to make their opening statements Thursday. The first witnesses may also be called soon afterward.

In the months that followed Smart's disappearance, her anguished parents, Ed and Lois, became a familiar sight in the media as they continued to plead for their daughter's safe return.

But no one expected what happened in March 2003, when Smart was found walking down a street in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy in the company of Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.

Mitchell, a drifter and self-described prophet who called himself "Emmanuel," had done some handyman work at the Smarts' home.

Utah prosecutors charged Mitchell with six felony charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary. But in July 2005, a Utah district court judge ruled him incompetent to stand trial, leaving him in custody at the Utah State Hospital.

However, the state case against Mitchell was put on hold when federal authorities stepped in. A grand jury in 2008 indicted Mitchell and Barzee. U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball found Mitchell competent to stand trial in March.

Barzee, 64, pleaded guilty in November 2009 to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in federal court and was sentenced in May to 15 years in federal prison. She also pleaded guilty but mentally ill in state court to conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping in an attempt to kidnap Smart's cousin a month after Smart was kidnapped. She was given a sentence of one to 15 years, to be served concurrently with the federal sentence, and given credit for the seven years she had spent in custody.

As part of her plea agreement, Barzee agreed to cooperate in the state and federal cases against her husband. However, her name does not appear on a witness list filed by federal prosecutors -- and does appear on a list of witnesses filed by the defense.

Smart, her mother and her younger sister, Mary Katherine -- who was sleeping in the room with Smart the night of the kidnapping and was the only witness -- all appear on the prosecution's witness list.

Mitchell's attorneys attempted to move his trial, saying it should be held outside of Utah because publicity in the case had prejudiced the pool of potential jurors against him and jeopardized his right to a fair trial.

Defense attorneys in July said in court documents that they intend to utilize an insanity defense and intend to introduce expert testimony relating to an alleged mental disease or defect.

Now 22, Smart testified as part of Mitchell's competency hearing last year that after taking her -- still dressed in her red pajamas -- from her home, Mitchell took her to a wooded area behind her home and performed a mock marriage ceremony with her before sexually assaulting her. She testified he repeatedly assaulted her during her months in captivity, and that he and Barzee took her to California before returning with her to Utah.