- Associated Press - Thursday, November 4, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday interrupted the trial of the man accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart to rule on a defense motion demanding that it be moved out of Utah.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver agreed to take up the question of whether Brian David Mitchell can get a fair trial because of publicity his lawyers say has tainted the jury pool.

Appeals court Clerk Betsy Shumaker told the Associated Press the trial is on hold pending a ruling by Judges Deanell Tacha, Timothy Tymkovich and Jerome Holmes.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball interrupted opening statements in the Salt Lake City trial and sent home the jurors that he had impaneled only about an hour earlier.

“I’m of course very unhappy about this,” Judge Kimball told the jury of nine men and five women before apologizing and releasing them for the day.

“I have to do what the 10th Circuit says. I don’t know what they’ll do when they consider it, but for today we’re in recess for this matter. I’m very sorry.”

News of the appeals court’s decision came just as Mr. Mitchell’s defense attorney, Parker Douglas, began his opening remarks. It was unclear how quickly the court might rule or when the trial might resume.

Miss Smart’s mother and her sister, Mary Katherine, who was sleeping in the same bed with Miss Smart when she was taken at knifepoint, were at the courthouse and prepared to testify Thursday.

Elizabeth Smart also will give lengthy, detailed testimony about the alleged abduction, sexual abuses she suffered during nine months of captivity and threats she said Mr. Mitchell made on her life and her family, federal prosecutors Felice John Viti said Thursday.

If convicted, Mr. Mitchell could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Miss Smart was 14 when she was snatched from her bedroom in June 2002. She was found with Mr. Mitchell nine months later. He was accused of slicing through a kitchen window screen with a knife and whisking away the young girl in the middle of the night.

Federal prosecutors took over the case after state proceedings were stalled by questions about Mr. Mitchell’s mental health. He was diagnosed with a delusional disorder and deemed incompetent to stand trial.

A state judge rejected a request to force Mr. Mitchell to be treated with medications, saying she didn’t believe the drugs would work. The ruling left Mr. Mitchell incarcerated in the state hospital, where he had refused treatment.

But Judge Kimball ruled in March that Mr. Mitchell was competent to stand trial. His attorneys have said they were prepared to claim Mr. Mitchell was insane at the time of the abduction. They point to a 27-page manifesto drafted by Mr. Mitchell — “The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah” — as evidence of his delusions.

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