Judge: Mitchell trial to stay in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Brian David Mitchell, the man accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, can get a fair trial in Utah, according to U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball, who issued a decision on the matter Thursday.

After reviewing the more than 330 questionnaires returned last week by potential jurors in the state, Kimball claims that Mitchell "will be able to obtain a fair and impartial jury," as the court believes there is not significant prejudice against him as a result of media coverage.

Most of those who answered the survey said that although they get information from the media, they view it with some skepticism and not as the sole basis for forming their opinions, as stated in Thursday's order.

The returned surveys also were void of much hostility toward Mitchell, which the court believes is unexpected whereas his is a case involving alleged sexual assault of a minor.

Kimball later explained that jurors aren't required to know nothing about a case in order to serve the jury for that case. Even if defense attorneys were able to remove the potential jurors they believe might have pre-judged Mitchell, as they have asked, the court believes over 100 would still be available for examination.

Based on the responses, the court says it finds "no substantial prejudice against (Mitchell) on either factual guilt or the insanity defense."

"Many more jurors than are necessary to seat a jury appear to be undecided or open-minded on both questions," wrote Kimball. Most of the survey respondents mentioned they had only seen about 10 articles pertaining to the case, while Kimball noted that hundreds have been written.

Mitchell, 56, is accused of kidnapping a then 14-year-old Smart in 2002, sexually assaulting her and taking her to California before returning to Utah where he was seen walking alongside a road and arrested.

Thursday's decision is the second such ruling by Kimball, as he noted similar findings in August. He later agreed to consider the results gathered from more than 500, 42-page questionnaires that were sent out.

Mitchell's trial is set to begin Nov. 1 in Salt Lake City.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

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Wendy Leonard


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