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SALT LAKE CITY -- Jury selection got underway Monday morning in the federal case against Brian David Mitchell, who's accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002. As in previous court hearings, Mitchell was removed from the court for singing.
Mitchell, 57, faces federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines -- for allegedly taking Smart to San Diego in the 2002 abduction. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in a federal prison.
Mitchell appears in court
Monday's court proceedings began at 9 a.m. in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court. Mitchell appeared in a jumpsuit but had asked that he be allowed to wear robes similar to those he was wearing when he was arrested nine months after the abduction. Judge Dale Kimball denied that request due to safety concerns.
Mitchell sang in the courtroom as he was escorted in. His eyes were closed, hands held together as in prayer. After about 10 minutes the judge had him removed and put in a separate room where he can watch the proceedings by remote video.
Jury selection begins
Thirty-five of the 220 potential jurors were brought into the court for questioning. Attorneys spent between 10 and 30 minutes on each juror, asking them about their experience with mental illness and how they feel about an insanity defense.
By the end of the first day, they had questioned 17 people and kept nine of them as potential jurors.
March 12, 2003 - Elizabeth Smart found alive
July 26, 2005 - Brian David Mitchell found incompetent to stand trial
Feb. 12, 2008 - Judge orders Smart suspect, Wanda Barzee, to be medicated
March 5, 2008 - Accused Elizabeth Smart kidnappers indicted
March 11, 2008 - Utah Supreme Court stops Barzee's forced medication
Oct. 9, 2008 - Judge denies forced medication request for Mitchell
Oct. 17, 2008 - Mitchell's case moves to federal court
May 1, 2009 - Elizabeth Smart talks about months in captivity
Oct. 1, 2009- Elizabeth Smart relives kidnapping ordeal at Mitchell hearing
Nov. 17, 2009 - Barzee pleads guilty to federal charges in Smart kidnapping
Nov. 29, 2009 - Competency hearing set in Smart abduction case
Nov. 30, 2009 - Testimony begins in Mitchell's 10-day competency hearing
March 1, 2010 - Mitchell found competent for trial
March 12, 2010 - Federal judge sets Smart kidnapping trial date
Aug. 16, 2010 - Judge denies motion to move Mitchell trial out of state
Sept. 9, 2010 - Rules proposed for jury selection in Mitchell's upcoming trial
Oct. 24, 2010 - Judge: Mitchell trial to stay in Utah
Oct. 25, 2010 - Elizabeth Smart returning home to testify in Mitchell trial
Tuesday, more people will be questioned. Once the court has 30 potential jurors, attorneys will pick the 12 that will by seated on the jury.
Mitchell's stepdaughter, who was in the courtroom Monday, says she doesn't think he can get a fair trial in Utah.
"I'm hearing them think a lot about what they should say, to try and say what they think everybody wants them to say so they can get on the jury and then hang him," Rebecca Woodridge said.
She said she plans to be in the courtroom every day of Mitchell's trial.
"He's mentally ill and needs help. I don't think he belongs in prison," Woodridge said.
Jury selection could take at least a week to complete. The trial is scheduled to run every weekday, from approximately 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., through Dec. 10.
How the trial will proceed
Mitchell was judged competent to stand trial in federal court earlier this year after an expert witness for the government said he believed Mitchell was "malingering," essentially faking a mental illness to avoid prosecution.
With prosecutors expected to call as many as 22 witnesses, the trial could take up to six weeks.
Now 22, Elizabeth Smart is expected to return to Utah from France where she is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to testify against Mitchell.
Attorney Greg Skordas, who is not involved in the Mitchell case but who did represent Elizabeth Smart at one time following her return, told KSL Monday he doesn't expect her to be the first witness called.
"I think at this point the government will go in sequential order. If that's the case, they would probably put her mother on the stand first to talk about how he was introduced to the family, maybe her sister to talk about the alleged abduction, and then Elizabeth," Skordas said.
Also on the list of 22 possible witnesses is Mitchell's now-estranged wife, Barzee, who also was charged in both state and federal court with crimes related to the kidnapping.
Barzee's competency was restored last year. She pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor charges in federal court and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In court papers filed late Friday, defense attorneys list Barzee among the 24 people they plan to call to testify on Mitchell's behalf.
Mitchell's federal public defenders maintain that he is ill and unable to participate in his own defense. In court papers, defense attorneys have said they'll mount an insanity defense.