Appeals court denies venue change in Mitchell trial


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Eight years after Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her home, the trial will begin for the man accused of the crime.

A federal appeals court Thursday denied the defense's motion to stay the trial of Brian David Mitchell and move it out of Utah. In its ruling, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said it was premature to consider the defense's petition.

Mitchell's attorneys have argued that because of pretrial publicity, Mitchell cannot get a fair trial in Utah. In its ruling, the 10th Circuit said it's possible a jury could be seated where all of the jurors would satisfy his view of impartiality.

The higher court called the petition "premature" and "uninformed" because jury selection hasn't even begun in the case. It said the defense's petition was a drastic remedy, only to invoke in extraordinary circumstances.

Elizabeth Smart, who is serving an LDS mission in France, will return to Utah to testify against Mitchell. She testified at his competency hearing last year and talked about her ordeal. She said Mitchell used religion to justify his actions, which included daily sexual assaults against her.

Smart's mother, Lois, and sister, Mary Katherine, are also expected to take the stand. The 10th Circuit's ruling allows the trial to go ahead as scheduled on Monday.

It begins with jury selection -- a process that can take a couple of days.

Mitchell, a 57-year-old former street preacher, is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Smart was 14 when kidnapped from her home at knifepoint in 2002.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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