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Defense attorneys for convicted kidnapper and rapist Brian David Mitchell on Tuesday asked a federal judge to consider the man's mental and physical health problems before determining how long the 57-year-old will spend behind bars for the abduction of Elizabeth Smart.
In a memo filed in U.S. District Court, Mitchell's defense team asked U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball to deny a motion from the government asking the judge to deviate from sentencing guidelines and impose a sentence greater than what guidelines suggest.
"Generally, [under law] the defendant's mental and emotional condition are not relevant to sentencing," wrote defense attorney Robert Steele. "However, in extraordinary circumstances district courts may properly consider a defendant's mental health when considering either an upward or downward departure, if the mental and emotional conditions contributed to the defendant's commission of the offense."
Because sentencing guidelines are advisory in nature, a judge can sentence someone above or below the sentencing guidelines known as a upward or downward departure from guidelines. A judge cannot sentence someone beyond the statutory maximum amount of time set for a crime. Mitchell is facing up to life in prison.
Steele wrote that during the course of Mitchell's federal case, four mental health professionals stated he has a severe mental illness. He wrote that jurors said following Mitchell's conviction that they believed Mitchell had a mental health problem, but didn't believe he was insane at the time of his offenses against Smart.
"Mr. Mitchell suffers from a mental condition that contributed at least in part to his commission of the offense," Steele wrote, saying that the court can consider the man's mental and emotional health when fashioning a sentence.
Steele wrote Kimball should impose the recommended guidelines because of Mitchell's physical health problems, which include recurring seizures that began in December 2009 and which once interrupted Mitchell's December 2010 trial. Steele also requested the court waive any fines Mitchell must pay.
Tuesday's court filings by Steele followed documents filed earlier this month in which defense attorneys argued that Mitchell did not cause "extreme psychological injury" to Smart when he kidnapped the then-14-year-old girl from her bedroom at knifepoint on June 5, 2002, to make her a plural wife.
As proof, the defense points to Smart's public comments of how she survived her horrific 9-month ordeal at the hands of Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, who threatened to kill her and her family if she didn't comply with their wishes.
Smart, now 23, who recently completed a mission in France for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is expected to speak at Mitchell's May 25 the sentencing hearing.