Elizabeth Smart. It's a name that most Americans who keep up with current events recognize. At the age of 14, Smart was taken from her home and kept in captivity by a couple for about nine months. The man allegedly responsible for the abduction and sex assault on a child, Brian David Mitchell, now faces criminal charges in a Utah court.
But that is not how the defense wanted it to go.
Last week, the Smart trial got underway, and it was briefly put on hold when Mitchell's defense team requested that the nationally infamous case be moved out of the state of Utah. Defense argued that the case and their client are too well-recognized in the state and that Mitchell could not get a fair trial unless the hearings were relocated. The appeals court in Denver disagreed, however, and the trial has resumed in Utah.
According to sources, it is not entirely uncommon for jurors to have some knowledge of a case that they are hearing, and such knowledge does not preclude them from participating in the legal process. One defense attorney suggests that for a potential juror to know nothing of a high-profile case is somewhat dangerous, indicating that the juror is entirely out of the loop, or possibly even lying about their knowledge during the selection process.
What matters is that jurors are not chosen who have definite, passionate opinions about the alleged kidnapping and rape and the defendant at the center of the case before them. A level of open-mindedness, according to legal analysts cited in The Salt Lake Tribune, can lead to a fair trial whether jurors know of the case or not.
The upcoming post will discuss the jury selection further, plus the defense's argument in this high-profile case.
The Salt Lake Tribune: "Analysis: Smart kidnap jurors met standards," Sheena McFarland, 6 Nov. 2010