Judge in Smart case takes change of venue request under advisement

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawyers for Elizabeth Smart's accused kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, want his trial moved out of Utah. A hearing on the change of venue request wrapped up Thursday afternoon in federal court.

The judge said he will be taking the defense's motion to move Mitchell's trial under advisement. He said he will likely make his decision soon.

Defense attorneys say this is a case of presumed prejudice, arguing that all of the media coverage of the kidnapping and return of Elizabeth Smart makes it impossible to find an impartial jury in the state of Utah.

They compared the Mitchell's case to the media coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing and the federal judge's decision then to move suspect Timothy Mcveigh's trial to another state.

But federal prosecutors disagree, saying you cannot compare a bombing where hundreds of people were killed to the kidnapping of one girl. They also cited hundreds of local news articles they believe show pretrial news coverage was not bias.

In addition, they say it is possible to find an impartial jury of 12 in Utah if one has a jury pool of 500 people.

However, if the judge grants the defense's motion for a change of venue, prosecutors believe he will decide where to move the trial, but would do so only after consulting court administrators to find a venue to accommodate a trial of this nature and lasting as long as this one is expected.

Prosecutors believe the judge would first look to the 10th Circuit Court and if a trial could not be accommodated there, he would look elsewhere.

The 10th Circuit Court covers Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

Attorneys from both sides declined to comment on Thursday's hearing.

Mitchell is charged in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. His attorneys say he was insane at the time of the crime.

In May, Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee, was sentenced to 15 years prison. As part of a plea deal, she has agreed to testify against Mitchell.

As in past hearings, Mitchell sang in court as he was being brought into court Thursday. Also as in past hearings, the judge had him removed when he refused to stop.

Mitchell's trial is set to begin on Nov. 1.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Andrew James.

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