Friday, December 10, 2010

Lady Justice Smiles on Smart


What a beautiful word when it's referring to the Brian David Mitchell verdict.

Over the past month and a half I spent a total of two weeks in Utah, observing parts of this trial. I watched the jury selection and a week of testimony including Mitchell's mother, father, sisters, brother and his accomplice and wife (now estranged) Wanda Barzee. I sat in the courtroom with the Smart family, Ed, Lois and Elizabeth. I observed a brilliant, thoughtful prosecution team and a (in my opinion) bumbling, silly defense team. The ring leader, and my new hero, was the funny, confident judge Dale Kimball. In this same courtroom I met law students, guards, federal marshals, journalists, authors and sketch artists; bonds were made, friendships formed.

It feels weird to write that observing this case was riveting, but it was. The compelling kidnapping aspect was certainly one part of it, but there was so much more - the psychological component, the religious element, the judicial system in general, violence against women and children, both emotional and physical.

I remember sitting in court one day and looking around - Elizabeth, the victim, in the front row, Wanda, one of the perpetrators, on the stand, Wanda's daughters sitting a row behind Elizabeth, Wanda's mother on the other side, Brian David Mitchell's sister and brother a few rows behind. I remember thinking in terms of the bigger picture - the ripple effect of this strange yet severe crime on all those people, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, nephews, nieces even outsiders like me. And this was just one crime. At that moment I thought, this case is just a microcosm of what happens every single day in the world - bad people making bad decisions and hurting countless other people. All for what? One person's twisted need for power? A squirrley man needing to feel big?

I was thrilled when I heard GUILTY on Friday morning, but it wasn't until I came home and watched some video online that I was moved to tears. I watched some of the jury, the ones I'd seen interviewed from the start on November 1st, as they spoke to the media. They were intelligent and informed and felt very sure of their verdict. They were disgusted by what they heard and so impressed with Elizabeth Smart's testimony. One juror said it was an honor watching the prosecution at work - and that's exactly how I felt when I was there.

And tonight in an interview Ed Smart announced that Elizabeth wants to finish her mission work in France, finish her music degree at BYU and then start studying for the LSAT test. She wants to be a prosecuting attorney now, and it is my guess that she will be a damn good one. Power to her.

Sentencing will be on May 25th back in Salt Lake City. You can bet I'll be there.

Drawings were done by me in court one day when I sat behind the Smart family. From top to bottom: Lois Smart puts her arm around Elizabeth. Ed and Lois with Wanda Barzee on the stand in the middle of them. Ed, Lois and Elizabeth in the foreground with Judge Kimball and Wanda Barzee in the background.