Elizabeth Smart smiled in court as Brian David Mitchell was convicted today of kidnapping her and subjecting her to nine months of sexual and mental torture that included repeated rapes, forced consumption of drugs and frequent threats to kill her.
In finding Mitchell guilty, the jury rejected his legal defense that he was too mentally ill to be held liable for the crime.
Speaking for the first time since the verdict, Smart said she hopes her story helps other victims speak out about the crimes they've endured.
"I hope this will give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what has happened to them," said Smart. "I hope that this is not only an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened."
Earlier in the day, Smart's lawyers expressed their happiness with the jury's decision and said the case hinged on Smart's brave testimony.
"This is a very historic and momentous day in the criminal justice history of this state," said Carlie Christensen, U.S. attorney for Utah. "We are very pleased the jury reached the verdict that they did."
"The beginning and end of this story is attributable to a woman with extraordinary courage and extraordinary determination and that's Elizabeth Smart," said Christensen. "That young woman had the ability and willingness to recall the graphic details of the nine month captivity."
"She did it with candor and clarity and truthfulness that I think moved all of us and gave a very powerful and credible story," she said. "She is a remarkable young woman."
Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet who was frequently removed from the courtroom because he would break into song, will be sentenced on May 25 and could face life in prison.
As the verdict was read, Mitchell sang religious hymns loudly while his lawyer tried to get him to be quiet.
Jurors, intent on remaining anonymous and identified themselves only by their numerical positions on the panel, told reporters that that the trial took an emotional toll on them. Still, they said they were "honored" to help Smart get justice after so many years.
"When you sit for hours at a time and listen to in credibly unbelievable things that happened to a young lady like Elizabeth Smart you have to be pretty callous to be able to walk away without having something sticking in your heart," said Juror No. 9.
Juror No. 14 said that after the first day of testimony jurors returned to the deliberation room and did not say a word while four of five of the members were crying.
"I'm privileged to have shaken her hand and given her a hug," he said. "I pray that Elizabeth can go forward with her life and enjoy every rich thing life has to offer."
Elizabeth Smart Jury Rejects Insanity Claim
Mitchell's former stepdaughter, Rebecca Woodridge, told reporters that she was surprised at the verdict.
"I think he should have been found not guilty and been sent somewhere to find the reason that he does the things he does," said Woodridge.
Jurors spent just over five hours deliberating before coming to a verdict just after 10:30 a.m. today.
While defense attorneys never argued that Smart was not kidnapped and repeatedly raped by Mitchell, they spent much of the trial arguing that Mitchell is not mentally sane and cannot be liable for his actions.
But the prosecution in their closing arguments claimed the Mitchell is faking mental illness.
"He's a predatory chameleon with the cunning to adapt his behavior to serve his needs and desires at any given moment," Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Hagen told the jury.
The trial spanned five grueling weeks, during which Smart took the stand to describe in frank language what happened during her nine-month captivity.
During the three days Smart spent on the stand last month, she gave excruciating personal testimony that painted Mitchell as a cruel religious zealot obsessed with sex.
Speaking in a controlled voice, her words tinged with anger, Smart called Mitchell selfish and a "hypocrite" who raped her at every chance he got even while proclaiming himself to be God's servant.
Smart, now 23, told the jury that Mitchell talked to her during her captivity about what would happen if police found them.
"He knew he would go to prison. But then he also said that I ... and the other wives ... would come and testify in his behalf," Smart testified. "And he said that he would be released and he would be killed and lie dead in the street for three days and then he would be resurrected and he would go on to fight the Anti-Christ."
She also spoke of being forced to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, which disgusted her.
Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped from her bed in Utah. She has said she was forced to "marry" Mitchell in an impromptu ceremony shortly after the kidnapping and that he would often beg her for sex, angering his accomplice Wanda Barzee, who was jealous of the attention Mitchell gave Smart.
Remaining poised throughout her testimony, Smart detailed her nightmarish nine months with Mitchell and Barzee. She said that at one point she was confronted by a police officer looking for Elizabeth Smart and he wanted to look under the veil Mitchell made her wear. She said she was so afraid of Mitchell's death threats that she didn't speak up and was heartsick that the officer wasn't more persistent.
The officer, Det. Ron Richey, has said he was devastated to learn later that he had been looking right at Smart and didn't do more to help her.
When she was finally rescued, she initially denied her identity out of fear that Mitchell would make good on his death threats.
Barzee pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping charges last year and was later sentenced to 15 years in prison.
At one point in the trial, Smart stormed out of the courtroom after a psychiatrist testified that she had baby names picked out in case she became pregnant by the man who held her captive.
Psychiatrist Paul Whitehead told the court that Smart had been "chastised" by Mitchell and Barzee, according to The Associated Press.
"Mr. Mitchell was talking with Miss Smart about having babies to the point where Miss Smart actually picked out a name in case that happened," Whitehead testified.
As Whitehead described Smart choosing a baby name, Smart left her front row seat in the courtroom and went to a private area. Her mother quickly followed.
Mitchell has been removed from the courthouse nearly every day for refusing to stop singing hymns, and one time was removed and the trial temporarily halted after he to appeared have suffered a seizure, collapsing in court.
Elizabeth Smart Contributed to Her Rescue
Smart told the court that her kidnapper had grandiose religious illusions, referring to himself as the "Davidic King" or the "one mighty and strong," but many of the prayers he said out loud were for God to make Smart "perform her wifely duties."
Mitchell's lawyer appeared to be trying to depict his client as severely mentally ill, whose extreme religious views and abusive practices indicate the depths of his insanity.
Smart said Mitchell held bizarre religious views, melding traditional Mormon philosophy with new ageism and his own doctrine that included a book he wrote, "The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah," which he made Smart read.
She said Mitchell forced her to pray for lengthy periods and said Mitchell would pray out loud for Smart to have sex with him.
"The things that he would say in his prayers were things that I would never have said," Smart said. "He would say, 'Please bless me,' that I would be able to cope with my wifely duties and be able to rise to the occasion and fulfill my wifely duties. That is about the farthest thing from my prayers."
Mitchell also had Barzee make up a book of hymns and would make Smart sing whatever songs he chose.
She testified that Mitchell declared that he was the one destined to fight the anti-Christ because he was the "one mighty and strong" and the "Davidic King."
"Nine months of living with him and seeing him proclaim that he was God's servant and called to do God's work and everything he did to me ... is something that I know that God would not tell somebody to do," she said. "God would never tell someone to kidnap her at knifepoint from their bed, from her sister's side ... never continue to rape her and sexually abuse her."
Lawyer Robert Steele also had Smart describe Mitchell's belief in a healing process he called lymphology, which involved touching places that hurt and "bouncing," jumping up and down. She said he was a restless sleeper who frequently got up during the night to bounce for several minutes, sometimes on one leg, before going back to bed.
Steele asked Smart on the stand if she ever saw Mitchell lose consciousness.
"Yes. We were in California at the time. He was in the middle of raping me and he experienced a seizure," she said calmly.
Smart made an effort to get help when she was allowed to go to a bathroom in a Hard Rock Cafe and tried to scratch "Help" on the bathroom wall.
She also contributed to her rescue after Mitchell took them to California. She told Mitchell that God wanted them to return to Salt Lake City. She suggested he pray on it, and said he could probably kidnap another wife from a Mormon camp for girls in the area.
Mitchell, she said, prayed about her suggestion and decided to return to Salt Lake City where Smart was eventually discovered and rescued.