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Elizabeth Smart Judge: Brian David Mitchell Can Get Fair Trial in Utah Kidnap Case

Elizabeth Smart Update: Judge Says Brian David Mitchell Can Get Fair Trial in Utah
Elizabeth Smart and Brian David Mitchell (AP/Deseret News, Tom Smart) AP/Deseret News, Tom Smart

SALT LAKE CITY (CBS/AP) Brian David Mitchell, the man who allegedly kidnapped 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart from her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002 and held her until she was found alive roughly nine months later, can get a fair trial in Utah despite the news coverage of the case, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled Thursday plenty of impartial jurors are available for MItchell's trial, based on Kimball's review of questionnaires filled out by hundreds of prospects, according to The Salt Lake City Tribune.

Mitchell, 56, and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, 64, were charged with abducting the then-14-year-old Smart on June 5, 2002, from her Salt Lake City home. They were arrested in March 2003 while walking along a street with the girl in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy, Utah.

Mitchell's defense team had a different assessment of the 330 questionnaires filled out by potential juror and filed a motion Oct. 12 arguing that the trial be moved to another state because of the intensive media coverage of Smart's kidnapping, the subsequent search for her and her discovery nine months later, living with Mitchell and Barzee, according to the Tribune.

Roughly 70 percent of the jury pool "unambiguously declare that they have prejudged [Mitchell's] guilt or would never ... consider a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity," according to the defense motion, the paper reported.

Although Mitchell was found competent to stand trial, his attorneys have said they will argue that the street preacher was insane at the time of the abduction. Investigators and a manifesto written by Mitchell said he was seeking to take additional wives. He's accused of raping Smart repeatedly over nine months while holding her captive as he drifted around, wintering at a southern California homeless camp.

Barzee pleaded guilty last November to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. She was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison and could testify against Mitchell.

The trial is set to start Nov. 1 in Salt Lake City.

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