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Prosecutor: What Elizabeth Smart would say

By Ann O'Neill and Jean Casarez, CNN
Elizabeth Smart is scheduled to testify about her abduction and captivity in her accused kidnapper's trial.
Elizabeth Smart is scheduled to testify about her abduction and captivity in her accused kidnapper's trial.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The appeals court lifts the stay, denying the defense request for a mistrial
  • It's unclear when the trial will resume
  • Smart has not extensively discussed the details of her captivity
  • The prosecutor says she was raped daily and degraded

Tune for a special report on child abductions and how parents are making a change in the system. "Every Parent's Nightmare," an "Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell" special, at 7 p.m. ET Friday on HLN.

Salt Lake City, Utah (CNN) -- Elizabeth Smart has long been silent about the details of an ordeal that began in June 2002 when a stranger crept into her bedroom, held a knife to her throat, marched her up a hillside trail and made her his sex slave.

She has spoken to local groups about how to move on after a traumatic experience, celebrated the passage of a national Amber Alert law for missing and abducted children, and offered advice to another alleged kidnapping victim, Jaycee Dugard.

In October 2009, Smart drew a general outline of her experience at a hearing to determine whether her accused captor, Brian David Mitchell, 57, was mentally competent to stand trial. Much of her testimony focused on Mitchell's ability to manipulate people and talk his way out of a jam.

At that hearing, Smart described being forced to sleep face down in her own vomit after Mitchell gave her too much alcohol, daily rapes and being drugged, shown pornography and threatened with death -- a mere outline of the events that transformed her from a 14-year-old who prayed with her family and read to her little sister into a submissive captive bent on survival.

A prosecutor provided a sneak preview of Smart's story in his opening statement Thursday, saying Smart "was threatened, sexually abused, degraded and humiliated."

He acknowledged the story he was telling was "disturbing." It is even more troubling to hear, he said, in Smart's own words.

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Smart had been scheduled to appear as the prosecution's third witness, following her mother, Lois, and sister, Mary Katherine. She had returned to Utah from France where she was on a mission, a rite of passage typically undertaken by young men raised in the Mormon faith, although it is gaining in popularity among young women. Had things gone as planned, she likely would have been on the witness stand Friday.

But a defense challenge over the location of the trial won the attention of a federal appeals court, which halted the trial on Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Felice Viti had finished his opening statement Thursday, and defense attorney Parker Douglas was just warming up, when the proceedings were halted -- before Douglas could complete his 11th sentence, according to the official trial transcript.

The three-judge panel vacated its temporary stay Friday. The trial is scheduled to resume Monday.

But Viti's preview lent a glimpse of what is to come.

Smart was abducted before dawn on June 5, 2002, the prosecutor said, and led to a campsite that "was her prison for the next four months." She was stripped, dressed in a robe and brought into a tent for an impromptu "wedding." And then, the prosecutor said, she was raped. Smart was in tears when she fell asleep.

A cable was attached to her ankle, and she was kept tethered to another cable strung between two trees. She had a bucket for a toilet, Viti told the jury.

The cable was removed after six weeks, but she certainly was not "free," the prosecutor added.

Rape was a daily occurrence, and she was forced to walk around the camp naked. It went against everything she¹d been taught by her family, everything she believed, he said.

During this time, the prosecutor added, Smart devised her survival strategy.

She would not resist Mitchell, and she would not antagonize him. She'd go along with him, vowing to "outlive" him. And she'd wait for her opportunity to escape.

There was a heartbreaking near-miss at the Salt Lake City public library. A homicide detective asked Mitchell to raise the veil Smart wore when they were out in public. Mitchell objected on religious grounds, saying showing her face in public would be inappropriate. The detective didn't challenge him further.

Still, Mitchell was rattled enough to suggest a move out of state, Viti said. Along with Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee, they traveled to California, winding up at a homeless encampment near Riverside. There, the abuse continued, Viti said.

"She was sexually abused, degraded, humiliated, forced to view pornography and subjected to daily harangues, never allowed to speak, never left alone," Viti said.

He added that Mitchell made other attempts to "strip Elizabeth of her identity," to break down her sense of herself. He named her "Shirdashi," then let her choose the name "Esther" for herself. As they traveled, her name changed again, to "Augustine Mitchell."

Finally, as they headed back to Utah in March 2003, Smart suggested they hitchhike. She also urged that they leave the robes and veils behind because it would be easier to find a ride in "regular clothes."

Shortly after arriving back in Utah, they were spotted walking on the street in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City.

Viti appeared to anticipate questions from jurors similar to those that have been raised over the past seven years: Why didn't she fight? Why didn't she run? Was she a willing captive? Or was it a case of Stockholm Syndrome, in which kidnapping victims come to identify with their captors?

"Nothing she did was voluntary," the prosecutor told the jury. "Everything she did was to survive. ... It worked. She survived."

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