This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Court Official: Good afternoon, thank you for waiting. Debriefing is a particularly important part of jury service, on behalf of the members of the press we thank you for being willing to do this as a collective today, this is a very unique opportunity.
Question: If any of you want to summarize any of your process or watershed pieces of evidence?
Juror No. 4: First off its with great respect to Ms. Smart, the Smart family and all of the victims. It's been an honor to witness the professionalism and intelligence of both counsels, of the court staff and also many of the witnesses.
Juror No. 7: I think it's incredibly important that we as a collective group, though we're not supposed to speak for each other, that we want to thank our family friends and our employers to allow us to participate in this very important process. It's taught me a lot of our freedoms, and personally I'd like to have someone fight for my feelings the way these good people have presented and how they looked after them.
Juror No. 12: I don't think any case is easy to do. You ask yourself, and you ask each other we've only been able to ask yourself all these questions because all you've been able to talk to is yourself I'm old enough to know I've been wrong a few times, and I'd like to talk to others because you're dealing with a victim and alleged perpetrator. Again, there's a sense of responsibility and seriousness especially in a trial that lasts this long. When you start deliberating, it becomes a little easier when you get reassured by other people that you're not that far out of line. It wasn't easy, but it made it easier once in the jury room and being able to talk about it.
Question: What was it like to hear her particular testimony?
Juror No. 7: It was easy for us to go home and cry a lot.
Question: Were there any of you guys, speaking individually, that were leaning toward not guilty by reason of insanity that maybe you want to talk about?
Juror No. 7: I think in Mr. [Robert] Steele's closing remarks, he composed as compelling an argument as was had throughout the entire event. It impressed me thoroughly.
Juror No. 3: Me too.
Juror No. 7: His style, his delivery, he organized his thoughts in such a way that they followed in a tight way what the defense had represented.
Juror No. 12: He was absolutely candid about the facts of the event.
Juror No. 9: As a jury, we have to come in with an open mind. You're tasked with making a decision with what courts are going to do with this man. You have to come in with an open mind and of course, personally, I considered the not guilty by reason of insanity, you have to consider that.
Question: Was there a particular day or point that pushed you that led you to the conclusion, or did you take in the general testimony?
Juror No. 6: I bounced back and forth the whole way through. There were good arguments from both sides, good witnesses, good closings, but when we could read the instructions of the law, I started to feel more comfortable. But I had been bouncing back and forth, but it came down to the instruction of the law.
Juror No. 1: It's been a roller coaster for me. There were some days that the defense would present a really good case, then a witness for the prosecution would have me leaning another way. Like juror number 6, it was a wavering kind of process for me.
Juror No. 3: We were all respectful off each other, and every single person got to voice their questions or concerns we got to discuss. I wanted to thank Mr. Steele for being forthright and honest with his closing.
Juror No. 12: There was no dissension, there was discussion. There was some discussion about the insanity issue. I don't want to tread to much farther, but there was discussion and debate and I think that somebody mentioned the instructions of the judge and the wording of that ultimately led us to resolving that.
Juror No. 7: It built the framework.
Juror No. 10: We didn't go in and try to make a decision right away. We let everyone share their thoughts and opinion and we tried as a group and individuals and all come to an agreement about certain issues. It really was more of an open conversation, the concerns about evidence, it was not a fast process, we took time to voice our opinions, what the important facts were or what maybe would sway us one way or another.
Question: Which witnesses' testimonies were the most compelling for you in making your decision?
Juror No. 10: I think that varies for all of us. I liked Dr. Welner, but Dr. Whitehead was compelling too because he spent so much time with the defendant. They were both very credible witnesses, and taking their two testimonies along with the other witnesses. We had to take it all together. The defense put on a vigorous case.
Juror No. 7: I think for me, Dr. Peterson put the cultural picture together, in some ways it was very easy to call it a cut and dry case. I believe the cultural context was important to understand, and it was something that he brought to the witness stand to help.
Juror No. 12: I think Elizabeth Smart's testimony. How can you ignore the victim and her stamina and her ability to give her testimony.
Juror No. 3: [FBI] Agent [George] Dougherty and the marshal, Deputy Durando, he was great.
Juror No. 9: The people who spent day-to-day interactions with Brian David Mitchell, these are people who spent a lot of time with the defendant and with Elizabeth and could kind of give a personal view.
Juror No. 12: Particularly Miles.
Question: On Elizabeth's testimony, toward the end, said that God would not allow something like this to happen, the rape of a child, can you tell your reaction on that?
Juror No. 2: I think it was interesting, it was a turning point for me. I struggled with a lot of coincidences in the case, but her faith and what she believed, she could still stand up and say this is wrong and this is not something that God would ever tell you to command.
Question: Do any of you believe that Brian David Mitchell is truly sane and simply faking it?
Juror No. 6: Especially me personally, I don't think anybody thought what he did was sane. The defendant has some mental issues, but like you referred to, when you go by the law, it doesn't fit the criteria.
Question: The hard part was that he was not criminally responsible for the acts?
Juror No. 10: Yeah, it's tough, the defense has a tough burden of proof.
Juror No. 12: It's the question does he know right from wrong. The compelling evidence through the course of the trial, it's so obvious he was manipulative. He did things to avoid being caught to facilitate his crime, I do believe he knew his crimes.
Question: What about the part of the law that god was telling him to do these things?
Juror No. 12: In order to understand his case and in order to go from point A to point Z, it was very difficult because you have to be culturally literate in the LDS fundamentalist [culture], have to have it explained to you on the psychiatric side and the legal side. It is not as simple, the compelling case for any part of that, you have to understand this and this before you can get to here, and it's hard to get here. Dr. Peterson was good at that point, the psychiatrists...
Question: Many of you were in the state when Elizabeth was kidnapped, how does it feel to bring resolve to this?
Juror No. 7: Some of us were not here. I was here, but I'm old and I cry a lot. I cried.
Juror No. 10: The hardest point was bringing the verdict in. I was shaking and my eyes were welling up. It was a good thing to bring closure.
Juror No. 8: I think this brought some closure to Elizabeth, more so than just to close the case or for us.
Question: Was there ever a time that you were convinced of him being insane and then did a U turn?
Juror No. 6: I don't think there was ever a spot when it was set in stone. When we walked into the jury room to deliberate, there was discussion of it right off the bat. There were people who thought he met the criteria and people who didn't. We discussed what's everyone's concerns. We discussed things openly and that helped lead the decision there.
Juror No. 3: We reviewed our notes. We kept going back to notes and pieces of evidence we had questions about and that pretty much answered all of our questions.
Juror No. 4: I think this was mentioned, the benefit to go through the whole trial and form a basis of thoughts and then we reviewed instructions and formed our thoughts. Some were confident in the decision and some weren't sure their opinion fit right into the instructions.
Juror No. 12: We never made U-turn. We may have been going 5 miles per hour instead of 20 miles per hour, but we kept going down the road.
Juror No. 3: There was no bickering, no arguing.
Juror No. 7: Please keep in mind we weren't able to talk under the court order. When we came back on breaks, we talked about recipes, children and Christmas shopping. Sometimes we would just sit silently and ponder. We were not allowed to begin the discussion process until the judge sent us out that last time.
Question: You have been at this for six weeks, what has that been like?
Juror No. 5: It's been surreal.
Juror No. 7: We're going to bill the government for our time. [Laughter]
Juror No. 3: I didn't go to work for that time because it was so hard not to have people talk about it or to not hear something about the case.
Juror No. 9: They know when you've been gone for five weeks where you are.
Juror No. 12: I always stop at the corner Holiday station for coffee every morning. Usually I wear Levis and a T-shirt that should have been washed seven years ago, and lately I've been dressing up and I've been wearing a suit these last few days, and they all ask 'Where are you going?' It's kind of obvious. People are talking about it and you're plugging your ears. Same with kids and your wife.
Question: What evidence did you look at again? The videos, the Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, the Journey through the Land?
Juror No. 7: Yes, all of those things, we reviewed.
Juror No. 12: I should get a particular vote of thanks for reading the Book of Immanuel David Isaiah.
Juror No. 1: We looked at the terrain again.
Juror No. 6: A lot of the stipulations, you'd have in your notes there was a stipulation and then we reviewed the testimony.
Juror No. 4: Not all of it was to help us decide. The terrain was not critical to our decision.
Juror No. 7: We looked at multiple issues. There was a lot of personal passion and personal investments in feelings that were made and could not talk to anybody until we were finally given the right to deliberate. And when we were, there were questions, but by stating to each other, and attempting through our experience as a collective group, we could make decisions on those questions.
Question: You had to put your personal feelings aside, how hard was that knowing a 14 year old girl was being raped multiple times a day for nine months?
Juror No. 10: I took the court's orders seriously – not talking about it, keeping open mind, for me it was just following the court's orders, for me, the instructions the court gave, I took to heart. I took it seriously and did not develop an opinion until all the evidence was in.
Juror No. 5: You're talking about two people's lives.
Juror No. 12: The deliberation was extended by giving consideration to the defendant, it's why we looked at evidence again.
Question: You worked so hard as a panel, and there was a lot of emotion, before you stepped into the trial, did you feel any pressure from the community or personal pressure to lean toward a certain verdict?
Juror No. 6: I think the pressure was to make the right decision, but I didn't feel pressure to go this way or that way, and it was following the instructions the court gave us that we came up with our decision.
Juror No. 3: We haven't even mentioned the diversity we have: men, women, different cultures, different religious backgrounds, different work backgrounds.
Juror No. 4: Not talking about the case, it opened a lot of opportunity to find the diversity within this group.
Question: What impact did Brian David Mitchell singing have on your decision-making?
Juror No. 7: Some of us worried whether or not he was getting the words right. [Laughter]
Juror No. 3: The deputy they got to tell us what was happening after the courtroom, did the singing continue, were his hands still clasped, his eyes still closed?
Juror No. 9: We had asked the court did he still sing, at what point did he stop singing.
Question: Were you shocked or surprised by his singing?
Juror No. 12: It was irrelevant.
Juror No. 8: The first time I saw it, I was shocked and surprised, but after seeing it repeatedly, it didn't make a difference except that he was trying to disrupt the proceeding or block the proceedings.
Juror No. 6: At the beginning, it was pretty bizarre. I heard people say he could turn it off and on and sometimes it was religious and sometimes it was not. When he hit the courtroom, he started and he stopped when he left.
Question: All of the expert witnesses had solid resumes. What stood out when you were trying to weight that?
Juror No. 3: We looked at the facts of all the testimonies, and I found it interesting how many of them matched up, including the professionals and which were different, the staff at the state hospital and Dr. Welner.
Juror No. 4: Our decision came from the time of the counts, and what was the condition they came from when counts were made. All witnesses, expert or not, i liked to listen to the facts that pertained to the time of the counts.
Juror No. 12: Dr. Welner, to me. We had heard all these terms that were technical, but Dr. Welner would reply with three words and in terms a layman could understand. 'He's a pedophile.' That couldn't be any simpler. When the defense responded to Welner's testimony, they spent the majority of the time on him profiting from our government and Welner's fees, which had nothing to do with refuting his fees. That was majority of the cross examination. I already know our government wastes money. [Laughter]
Question: In most trials, the defendant sits there in the courtroom. That wasn't the case. Was that interesting or weird?
Juror No. 9: I think it was somewhat weird, it's almost like you're trying to make a decision about someone who you don't get to see. It was a little weird, not to see the person who you're trying to make the decision about.
Juror No. 10: He doesn't have to testify and he has the right to be excused, and I tried not to let it bias my view of the defendant. The defense has no control over it, and I really tried hard not to let that color my decision, I really did.
Juror No. 7: His representation in court was of a high professional level, and they proceeded forward in his absence in an incredibly good way.
Juror No. 10: They did the best with what they had to work with.
Question: The defense's closing, some of you have said that really made you consider the insanity defense. Do any of you want to talk about what caught your ear?
Juror No. 3: He characterized him so honestly, that he was not a good guy, not someone you want as a neighbor. He treated us with respect, too. It was his honesty.
Juror No. 12: He started describing him, and you think how could anyone that bad not be insane? He was devoid of compassion and had never done any kindness for anyone in his life. That gave me pause.
Juror No. 7: The government's case was well-organized and you felt that. We're not legal professionals, but generally speaking, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, but not in this case. But they brought that usual well-preparedness. It gave us an advantage to learning about that process to be able to have sat as close as I did. They were a tight-knit team.
Juror No. 12: They were efficient, that's the word I'd use.
Question: In the government's closing arguments, there were some one liners. What stuck with you?
Juror No. 6: To me, they were just a memory jogger and now I remember to ask about them. When I first got into the room, I wanted to look at my notes and I wanted to remember. The testimony has gone on for so long, you forget the smaller points, or what you thought were smaller points, and his closing led me to look back at a few things.
Juror No. 8: I think Wanda's comment that he was a great deceiver held something in my mind. She spent a lot of time with him, the most time with him.
Juror No. 7: In my opinion, it was what Mr. Viti did instead of what he said. There was a moment for me, being an old soft heart, was when he needed to get an ounce of composure on his last page or paragraph as he told us it was now going to be up to us.
Question: What are you going to do tomorrow?
Juror No. 4: I'm going to put up Christmas lights. It's Christmas season now, right?
Juror No. 3: I'm going to a wrestling match.
Juror No. 8: I'm going to watch all the old episodes of "Law and Order." [Laughter]
Question: The standard for being insane and the understanding of consequences, can you talk a little about them?
Juror No. 10: We got into the deliberation room and still questioned was he insane or not insane. To me, that indecision actually shows something. If he followed the rules, or the instructions, if there is some indecision that shows that the defense didn't adequately show he was insane. Just purely on the question of what we were asked to do, if you are not locked in that he's not guilty by reason of insanity, it's tough to say that the defense proved that point.
Juror No. 12: Did he know right or wrong at the time of committing the crime? He broke into Elizabeth Smart's home in the middle of the night, broke in through a window because he knew there was an alarm on the back door. He had a campground prepared with cables and shackles. That preparation tells me he knew what he was doing and he knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong and he was guilty of kidnapping. In the other count, did he take her across state lines to rape her, it had been continuing to go on in Utah, and it continued in California. He convinced many people he wasn't who he was, and that was overwhelming and compelling evidence that he took the time to avoid detection.
Question: Did you talk about the fact that while he did what he did, he may have done it because God told him to do it?
Juror No. 12: Do I have to be devious in order to follow God's command? Does an irrational mind prepare himself and take steps to avoid captivity. Would he be mindful of penalties for being caught?
Juror No. 2: What weighed on me is he wasn't telling her what his delusion was. If it was a commandment from God, wouldn't you disclose that pretty quickly?
Juror No. 3: The name changes, if he was having delusions, why would he be taking the robe on and off, if he was delusional, why would he give the blessings to Wanda only for personal gain?
Juror No. 6: The video in the San Diego jail when he used a different name. He didn't seem irrational at all in the video, and they touched on religion and he didn't go off. He was like a chameleon with his religion and his revelations. He changed so much back and forth. If he really believed, that wouldn't change.
Juror No. 12: He took whatever measure he needed for his own gain and meeting his own needs.
Juror No. 6: The biggest part was that he had a severe mental illness and understand what was wrong. The defense had to prove to us that he was unable to distinguish what he felt like what he was doing was wrong.
Juror No. 10: They had to prove one and two.
Juror No. 6: "And" is a key word. He's definitely crazy, but was he severely mentally ill and didn't know what was wrong?
Juror No. 8: This is not something we discussed in the jury room, but thinking of it now, if God said to go get her, would he dress in black with a buck knife instead of his religious robes? I did feel this guy has got a mental illness it's not normal to walk across the country in a cart and end up in Redding, Calif., but I do think he what he was doing was wrong and against the law.
Juror No. 10: He did have issues, but did it rise to the level of severe mental illness?
Juror No. 7: I think if we share that framework with you.
Court Official: [reading from printed jury instructions] For you to return a not guilty by reason of insanity, you must find clear and convincing evidence of a severe mental disease or defect, and as a result, he was not able to understand what he did was wrong.
Juror No. 6: There's another sentence in there that clarifies what clear and convincing evidence means.
Question: You are a thoughtful, eloquent group, and you've talked about the diversity among yourselves. What has this experience taught you about your fellow Utahns or about each other?
Juror No. 2: I've gained a lot of new friends, and I feel very close to them. When we walked into the jury room when we could start deliberating, I felt an instant closeness to everyone. I think for a lot of us, there is life before the trial and after the trial. Life has changed.
Juror No. 7: There were a lot of lives impacted by this decision, and if that decision was about our lives, we'd want it to be the right decision.
Juror No. 12: For me, there was an appreciation for our process. I was tremendously impressed by the staff of the courthouse, the defense, and particularly Mr. Douglas, who reminded me to read my Rasputin and my St. Augustine.
Juror No. 7: I think we have to be grateful for you in this process, you didn't push a microphone in our face, as you were asked by the court to give us a bit of space. You allowed us to do our job we were brought in for.
Question: Overlooked alternate juror 14, what was your experience like? Were you relieved or disappointed?
Juror No. 14: Juror No. 13's mother died in the middle of this, and he did not attend the funeral because he was dedicated to this process. We sat down on the couch and talked about how that felt. It was like getting ready and all excited for the Super Bowl and then the coach puts you on the bench and doesn't put you in the entire game. But I can still write a book, right? [Laughter]
Defense attorney Robert Steele, who had been sitting in the audience: I very much enjoy being in a courtroom. I think juries are incredible and important. You're magnificent, and it's an honor.
[Applause from jury and some stand in ovation.]
Jurors in the Brian David Mitchell trial
No. 1 • Female. A registered nurse who now works in marketing said that despite being "conflicted" about finding someone not guilty by reason of insanity, she would "trust in the system" regarding sentencing. She was raised Catholic but converted to the LDS Church.
No. 2 • Female. An Intermountain Healthcare employee who was 16 when Smart disappeared, she said she would rely on the trial evidence despite her belief based on media reports that Mitchell kidnapped Smart. She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
No. 3 • Female. A health care worker who, years ago, worked with sexual-abuse victims, she said she could consider an insanity defense but would want to hear from "doctors and family members" on the subject. She is an inactive LDS Church member.
No. 4 • Male. He said he didn't trust the media and attached no significance to Mitchell's singing in court. "It's his decision on how to act or react in certain situations," the man said. He is LDS.
No. 5 • Female. Wrote she believed that Mitchell kidnapped Smart but said she could set that aside. She is LDS.
No. 6 • Male. Said insanity meant having "no control" over one's actions and that the mentally ill should be sent to a state hospital for treatment. He is an inactive LDS Church member.
No. 7 • Male. Defined insanity as being "disconnected" from normal life. Said he could consider insanity for Mitchell. He is LDS.
No. 8 • Male. Has a family member with a mental illness but said that wouldn't affect him as a juror. He is an inactive member of the Catholic Church.
No. 9 • Male. Wrote he didn't want to serve because of the high profile of the case but changed his mind. Wrote he'd be more concerned about letting a guilty man go free than jailing an innocent man. He is Greek Orthodox.
No. 10 • Male. Lived in San Jose, Calif., during Smart's abduction. Prosecution said keeping him is "like having a change of venue." He is Presbyterian.
No. 11 • Female. Said she was surprised by Mitchell's singing, but "actually, I don't think he got all the verses correct." She is LDS.
No. 12 • Male. Said he knew almost nothing about the case. Neither side objected to the juror. He is Presbyterian.
No. 13 • Male. Thought people handle stress in different ways, and Mitchell's may be singing: "If that's his way of handling stress, then I don't judge that." He is LDS.
No. 14 • Male. Moved to Utah in 2007. Only heard Smart's name in passing. Neither side objected to him. He is LDS.