Will Elizabeth Smart Trial Really Give Her Justice?

Jeanne Sager

Elizabeth SmartReading accounts of the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping trial in Utah this week, I can't help feeling like the only one getting a fair shake here is Brian David Mitchell. This is the guy who stands accused of abducting her from her bed at knife-point, forcing her to marry him, and raping her. Repeatedly.

Yeah, yeah, right to a fair trial, fair schmial. Innocent until proven guilty. It's good old-fashioned American justice at work. It's the foundation of our country. Spare me the platitudes. I can't be the only one having a hard time stomaching it all just this once.

Mitchell gets to sit in the courtroom singing hymns like he's prepping for another Glee gets some religion episode. He's even gotten the court to halt proceedings to consider moving the trial out of state.

Smart, on the other hand, has to relive the sort of horrors that a 14-year-old (her age at the time of the kidnapping back in 2002) shouldn't have to go through once ... forget a second time. If that alone doesn't bring out the mama or papa bear in you, brace yourself. Her testimony yesterday wasn't for the faint of heart.

This one really chilled me:

I didn't want to spend another day with him. I never wanted to see him again. I'd seen what he had done to me. I'd seen how he had come in and taken me from my the bed, the place I thought was the safest place in the world, in my home, with my sister beside me. I felt that because of what he had done to me, I was marked. I wasn't the same. My personal value had dropped. I was nothing. Another person could never love me and I felt, yeah, I could take the risk of trying to escape and being killed.

It's a classic rape victim response, feeling less of a person because of something done to you rather than anything you yourself has done. And it gets worse:

I remember him saying, "I have a knife to your neck. Don't make a sound. Get out of bed and come with me or I will kill you and your family."

In the five? six? seconds it took Mitchell to spit that out (ahem, allegedly), Elizabeth Smart's childhood died. Now six years later she's no longer a child, but she can't be a normal 23-year-old either.

I'm well aware of the hypocrisy in saying we should just turn our backs, string this guy up by his toenails, and let him rot, but Elizabeth Smart isn't just the child of Ed and Lois Smart, two salt of the earth parents from Utah. The rampant media coverage has made parents across America feel like they need to protect her, and hug their own kids a little tighter at night.

We cheered when she was found alive in 2003. We shrank back in horror as the story of her time spent with Mitchell and his accomplice, Wanda Barzee, was spelled out. Now we're watching "our kid" undergo the horrors of testifying.

It doesn't feel much like justice served. Will it ever?


Image via George Frey/Stringer/Getty Images

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