Attorney Brian David Mitchell argues that his client has a deep history of mental illness

By Alla Byrne
Updated November 08, 2010 03:20 PM
Credit: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; AP

The defense gave its opening statement Monday in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping trial, arguing that Brian David Mitchell, who stands accused of the traumatic nine-month abduction, first exhibited signs of mental illness as a teenager and grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic father.

According to his attorney, Parker Douglas, Mitchell believed that God was giving him direct commands – and ordering him to give up his children for adoption, to take multiple wives and to take Smart, who was 14 at the time, as his wife.

“Regarding fear of the crazy decree from the divine, if Elizabeth Smart was to be his wife the way would be opened and if not it would not be opened,” Douglas said in his opening statement.

Douglas’s opening statements also painted a picture of deep mental illness, describing changes in his client’s behavior that occurred when he was between 13 and 16 years old.

“He becomes cruel and sadistic in his treatment of his mother and siblings,” Douglas told the court. “His life is marked by an intense set of beliefs and intense reactions to other people … It’s a pattern, a search for deep connection a belief that he has found something that gives him a certainty or a meaning in life.”

For his part, Mitchell was once again escorted out of the courtroom for singing hymns. (He entered singing “For the Wisdom and the Love.”)

Smart, meanwhile, didn’t show any emotion as the defendant was led to a nearby annex to witness the proceedings.

• Reporting by CATHY FREE