The Elizabeth Smart kidnapping trial was halted Thursday after a ruling by a Denver appeals court abruptly stopped proceedings.
The prosecution in the trial of Brian David Mitchell finished their opening statements – which included some harrowing details of the alleged crime – and the defense was just beginning when the ruling from Denver’s 10th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals was announced in the courtroom.
The Denver court has agreed to hear more evidence regarding a request from Mitchell’s attorneys to change the trial venue because they say their client cannot get a fair trial in Utah.
Judge Dale Kimball told the court he was “unhappy” about the ruling, and excused the jury, saying, “We’ll probably see you next week.”
Elizabeth and her father, Ed Smart, appeared extremely frustrated by the news. Elizabeth quickly left the courtroom with her sister, Mary Katherine, holding her arm.
While the defense was happy about the ruling, they were concerned about the timing.
Mitchell’s attorneys told ABC 4 that since the jurors heard the entire opening by the prosecution and very little from the defense, so will have more time to consider the prosecution’s arguments.
Mitchell, a self-proclaimed Utah prophet, is standing trial for the horrifying nine-month abduction of Elizabeth Smart. Charges against him include the kidnapping and sexual assault of Smart when she was 14.
A Nine Month Nightmare
Before proceedings ceased for the day, the prosecution summarized the terror of what allegedly happened to Elizabeth and her family that night, and during the months after, to a hushed courtroom.
“On June 5, 2002, Elizabeth Smart was awakened from her sleep and forced into a nine-month nightmare, taken from her own home – her own bed – by the defendant, Brian David Mitchell,” federal prosecutor Felice Viti told the court.
“For the next nine months [she] was held captive, forced to engage in conduct so contrary to what she knew, conduct that flew in the face of all she had learned, all she had been taught, all she believed,” Viti said. “She was threatened, sexually abused, degraded and humiliated.”
Elizabeth’s mother Lois and sister Mary Katherine Smart were expected to testify on Thursday, and Elizabeth is also set to take the stand when the trial resumes.
• Reporting by CATHY FREE