Ups and downs of Mitchell trial emotionally trying for Smarts

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Brian Mitchell's kidnapping trial has already taken all involved on a roller-coaster ride after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay, and then ordered the trial to resume next week.

With every high and low, experts say Mitchell's alleged victim, Elizabeth Smart, and her family are dragged back into the case as if it happened yesterday.


"It's very nerve-racking for them. They have to be in front of whomever committed the crime against them or their loved one, and they have to face them because the defendant has a right to face their accuser," says Tammie Garcia-Atkin, victim witness coordinator for the Utah Attorney General's Office.

It no doubt took a lot of courage for Elizabeth Smart and her family to head to court Thursday knowing they would be called as witnesses. But when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay, effectively stopping the trial in its tracks, Garcia-Atkin says was much more than an inconvenience -- it was probably emotionally devastating to the Smarts.

"It takes a lot of emotional strength, it takes a lot out of them," Garcia-Atkin says. "I think it takes them a long time to recover from that process. Then they have to get ready for it all over again."

Garcia-Atkin works with victim witnesses in state court, so she's not directly involved with the Mitchell trial. She says anytime a case is dragged out over several years, as this one has been, the victims are continually traumatized as they are forced to relive what happened.

"It's like we're thrown back to the day that the crime happened every single time," she says. "It's like we're right back there. It's like nothing's changed."

Mitchell's trial will resume on Monday, but even if Mitchell is convicted Garcia-Atkin says if his attorneys appeal, the case could drag on for years -- meaning Elizabeth will continually have to deal with what happened.

"If you have a defendant who wants to litigate, and has people who want to help him litigate, yeah, it potentially could be a very long time," Atkin-Garcia says.

The trial continues Monday morning, Nov. 8, at 8:30 a.m.


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Jennifer Stagg


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