- Associated Press - Monday, November 1, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The man accused of the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart was kicked out of a federal courtroom Monday for singing hymns as jury selection for his trial got under way.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball tolerated about a half-hour of Brian David Mitchell’s soft hymns before ordering Mr. Mitchell to be taken to another room in Salt Lake City’s federal courthouse to watch Monday’s proceedings by remote video.

Judge Kimball also rejected Mr. Mitchell’s request to don the robes he was wearing when he was arrested with Miss Smart in March 2003, nine months after the girl vanished from her bedroom.

Mr. Mitchell faces federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

Federal prosecutors moved to take over the case in 2008 after a parallel state court case stalled over questions about Mr. Mitchell’s mental health.

Judge Kimball decided earlier this year that Mr. Mitchell is competent to face trial. The 57-year-old Mr. Mitchell has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder and twice was deemed incompetent for trial in state court.

Defense lawyers maintain Mr. Mitchell is unable to participate in his own defense. In court papers, attorneys have said they’ll mount an insanity defense, claiming Mr. Mitchell was so impaired in 2002 that he can’t be held legally responsible.

Some 600 potential jurors were called for the trial. After exclusions based on hardships or responses to a 42-page juror questionnaire, about 220 remained to be questioned in person by attorneys for both sides.

Jury selection could take several weeks, and the trial is expected to last into December.

Defense lawyers earlier sought to move the trial out of Utah, claiming that publicity in the case since Miss Smart’s abduction in 2002 had tainted the jury pool and made it difficult for Mr. Mitchell to get a fair trial. Both Judge Kimball and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected that request.

Miss Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped at knifepoint from her home on June 5, 2002. She was recovered nine months later after a motorist spotted her walking the streets of a Salt Lake City suburb with Mr. Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.

Now 22, Miss Smart is expected to return to Utah from serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France to testify against Mr. Mitchell. She testified for the first time last year as part of a competency hearing for Mr. Mitchell, saying that within hours of her kidnapping she was forced to become Mr. Mitchell’s polygamous wife and endured repeated rapes and other abuses throughout her captivity.

Barzee, 64, pleaded guilty last year to federal charges related to Miss Smart’s kidnapping and is serving a 15-year term in federal prison. The plea came after Barzee was ordered by a state judge to undergo forced mental health treatment at the Utah State Hospital to restore her competency to stand trial.

As part of a plea agreement, Barzee said she would cooperate with prosecutors in cases pending in state and federal court. But Barzee’s name doesn’t appear on the list of 22 witnesses the government plans to call in Mr. Mitchell’s trial. Instead, court papers show Barzee listed among the 24 people defense attorneys plan to call to testify on Mr. Mitchell’s behalf.

 


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