More than seven years after being forced from her bedroom at knifepoint, Elizabeth Smart appears ready to go to court to face the man accused of holding her captive for nine months.
Smart is scheduled to testify Oct. 1 at a federal competency hearing in the case of street preacher Brian David Mitchell. She was 14 when Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, allegedly took her from her family's home June 6, 2002.
In a 2003 file photo, Ed Smart walks with his daughter Elizabeth Smart to the Rose Garden of the White House.
Smart later told investigators she was held captive as a plural wife for nine months, and moved from a foothills camp near her home to California and back to Utah. Despite wearing veils and robes, she was recognized on the street of a Salt Lake City suburb in June of 2003 and rescued by police. Mitchell and Barzee were with her and were charged with kidnapping and sexual assault.
The prosecutions of Mitchell and Barzee have been steeped in questions about mental competency. State courts have declared them incompetent and unable to assist in their own defense. Mitchell's case is now in federal court where competency is again an issue.
Mitchell's defense team has filed a motion objecting to her testimony and that of 38 other "lay" witnesses on the prosecution's witness list. Five experts are also scheduled to testify, including some who have assessed Mitchell's mental state.
Now 21, Smart is ready to face Mitchell in court, according to her father Ed Smart.
"It's been six years and I believe that she is ready to try and make sure that he doesn't do this again to anyone else," Ed Smart said. His daughter believes Mitchell "has to be held accountable for his actions," he added. Smart declined an interview request on his daughter's behalf.
Mitchell's motion argues that Elizabeth Smart and other "lay" witnesses, including Mitchell's relatives, and workers at a state hospital where he was confined, "are unqualified to opine on the ultimate issue before the Court or to provide any meaning for evaluation of the behavior they may have witnessed."
Still, federal defender Robert Steele says he's open to Smart's testimony if prosecutors demonstrate its relevance. A hearing on that is scheduled for Sept. 25.
"Some of what she has to say, even though it's six years old, is relevant to (Mitchell's) competency today," Steele says. "We have no objection to relevant evidence and I imagine there will be some."
It's not clear whether Mitchell will be physically present in the courtroom if and when Smart testifies. He has disrupted earlier court hearings with loud and persistent singing of hymns. Similar behavior may keep him in a holding cell, where he would participate in the hearing via video link.
Ed Smart believes Elizabeth's testimony is critical to judging Mitchell's competency. She "will be able to paint a true picture of Brian Mitchell: the manipulation; the coercion; what he is absolutely like."
Smart adds that his daughter will help show that Mitchell "is absolutely competent to stand trial and that he puts on a good show for everyone in court."
Mitchell's full competency hearing isn't scheduled to begin until Nov. 30. The special Oct. 1 court session was set for Elizabeth Smart's testimony because she is scheduled to leave Nov. 10 for a Mormon mission in France.