This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Until Monday, federal jurors' only experience of Brian David Mitchell was of a man eyes closed, hands clasped in prayer, softly singing hymns whom they see for just moments each morning before the judge orders him from the courtroom.
But a different personality emerged as prosecutors played video recordings depicting the homeless street preacher and accused kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart talking to a judge and police officers.
Video of Mitchell's February 2003 court appearance in San Diego for breaking into a church shows a contrite and apologetic Mitchell giving a false name and lying about "staying with friends" to avoid more jail time.
Mitchell claims the break-in occurred after he got drunk for the first time in 22 years. "Like Jonah getting swallowed by the whale, it's turned my life around," Mitchell tells a judge before his release.
Smart has testified Mitchell, now 57, then returned to the primitive campsite where he and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, were keeping the then-14-year-old girl captive.
Another video, recorded March 12, 2003, the day Mitchell and Barzee were arrested in Sandy with Smart, shows Mitchell fending off questions from an FBI agent and a Salt Lake City police detective.
During the two-hour interrogation, detective Cordon Parks and agent Jeffrey Ross come at Mitchell with everything in their arsenal they yell, they befriend, they belittle, they curse, they quote scripture, they call him a pedophile and a sinner but Mitchell parries with evasiveness and his own scripture quotations.
In the end, Mitchell admits little more than that he spent the past nine months with the girl.
Mitchell gives the officers his correct date of birth but says his name is Immanuel David Isaiah and gives his home address as "heaven."
He refuses to admit abducting Smart from her Federal Heights home at knifepoint in the early hours of June 5, 2002.
Mitchell says he is the Lord's servant, that God "delivered" Smart to him and that the Lord told him she was 18. Mitchell denies "marrying" Smart, saying instead, "She was sealed to me as my wife."
Asked if he had sex with the girl, Mitchell replies: "These are very personal and private questions."
At this point, Mitchell appears relaxed, sitting back in his chair with his feet up on another chair.
Threatened with life in prison, Mitchell says: "Do you understand God has the power to deliver me out of the hands of all my enemies?"
The officers tell Mitchell if he confesses, Smart will not have to relive the past nine months on the witness stand.
"She's had a glorious experience," Mitchell counters. "We've had many trials and tribulations. She knows who I am. She knows I'm a servant of the Lord." That statement caused Smart and her father, Ed Smart, to exchange looks of amazement in court.
Parks accuses Mitchell of "laying the groundwork" for an insanity defense, so he'll end up the state hospital rather than prison. Mitchell says he is willing to suffer whatever God has in store for him, but that a mental hospital would be "the worst thing to happen to me."
Asked if God told him to take Smart on the fall day in 2001 when he worked on the family's roof and raked leaves, Mitchell accuses the officers of posing "trick questions meant to entrap me."
When Parks tells Mitchell he finds him "interesting" because he has read the Bible and sold all his worldly possessions, Mitchell replies, "Now you've changed tactics to use flattery."
When Mitchell insists the "marriage" was consensual, the officers ask what the Lord would think of tethering a wife to a tree to keep her from running away. "The whole world is in bonds and chains … of idolatry and great wickedness," Mitchell says.
When a frustrated Ross remarks, "This is worse than Christmas Mass," the court gallery erupted in laughter.
Parks then asks point-blank: "Did you take Elizabeth Smart out of her house at knifepoint? Yes or no."
Mitchell answers: "You are trying to get me to say something false and I only speak the truth."
Later, the two officers move close to Mitchell and their voices rise as they accuse him of being a child rapist. Mitchell shouts repeatedly, "Your accusations are false," and, "I never raped anybody."
Ross complains to Mitchell that whenever the conversation gets close to the criminal accusations "all this theological stuff starts spewing out of your mouth."
Mitchell then asks to use the restroom and returns singing the hymn "I Need Thee Every Hour." He continues singing with Parks joining in at one point until Ross sings, too.
Later, Mitchell shouts seven times, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" then closes his eyes and says little more, despite the officers calling him "street begger," "loser" and expressing disgust at forcing a girl to have sex with "your smelly, repulsive self."
Later that day another FBI agent, George Dougherty, got Mitchell to open his eyes and engage in conversation by mentioning the suspect's 27-page religious manifesto called "The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah."
Dougherty testified Monday that he told Mitchell he was "interested but confused" by the book. The two ended up talking for about two hours, and Mitchell agreed to talk more at the Salt Lake County jail.
Dougherty testified Mitchell was pleased to learn the agent had read his entire book, and he visited Mitchell three times in jail. The agent described how he and Mitchell engaged in a sort of cat-and-mouse game that seemed to amuse Mitchell even though he was the loser.
The first time, Dougherty testified, he was asking if Smart was Mitchell's wife, if they had a marriage ceremony, was the ceremony in front of God and, finally, "Did you consummate your marriage to get a true union?"
Mitchell answered yes to all the questions.
But minutes later Mitchell "stopped and grinned and said, 'That was pretty good,' " Dougherty testified.
"When I asked him, 'What?' [Mitchell] said, 'You got me to say something I didn't want to say,' " Dougherty said.
Mitchell told Dougherty that after Smart's disappearance, he left their camp in the foothills to see what was happening in Salt Lake City.
"He said he was amazed how much was going on television, radio, posters and newspapers and people were everywhere [searching]," Dougherty testified.
When Mitchell talked about the publicity the case brought, Dougherty said, "I took it that he was enjoying the limelight."
Dougherty said Mitchell also told him: "I know the world will view me as crazy. I'm not crazy. I'm just following God's will."
email@example.com Mitchell's stepdaughter added to prosecutor's witness list
Just days after Rebecca Woodridge talked publicly about a jailhouse conversation with her stepfather, Brian David Mitchell, prosecutors have subpoenaed her to testify for them at Mitchell's kidnapping and sexual assault trial.
Woodridge said the subpoena, issued Monday, meant she had to leave the courtroom and must stay out until after she testifies, which could be after Thanksgiving, as a rebuttal witness.
Woodridge, the daughter of Mitchell's second wife, Debbie Mitchell, said she does not want to testify against Mitchell.
"I'm sure they'll ask about my visits to the jail," Woodridge said. She also fears prosecutors may ask her about allegations of sexual abuse that surfaced during Mitchell's marriage to her mother.
"This is a person I've forgiven," Woodridge said of Mitchell.