SALT LAKE CITY — An expert in religious texts said Friday that the writings of the former street preacher accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart are not entirely original, but drawn heavily from other books.
Brian David Mitchell's "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah" is a 27-page manifesto dated April 6, 2002, a few months before the kidnapping. It's thought to be an expression of Mitchell's religious beliefs that spells out his divinely inspired calling to battle the Antichrist at the end of the world.
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"I think the composition of these writings is much the way a student would compose a term paper," Peterson said.
Mitchell, 57, is on trial in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of illegal sex. If he is convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped.
Now, 23, she has testified that she was forced to enter a polygamous marriage with Mitchell, endured near daily rapes, was forced to use drugs and alcohol, and was taken to California against her will.
Defense attorneys don't dispute that Smart was taken from her home at knifepoint on June 5, 2002, or held captive for nine months. They argue, however, that Mitchell is mentally ill and can't be held responsible for the crimes.
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An expert in interpreting religious texts, Peterson is the first witness called by prosecutors in the rebuttal phase of the trial.
He said a chief theme of Mitchell's book is the belief that the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has fallen into apostasy. Aside from that role, most of Mitchell's beliefs appeared to be consistent with the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Peterson said.
Mitchell was a member of the church, but has been excommunicated.
"One of the things that strikes me about the (book) is the barrenness," Peterson said. "In terms of doctrine, there's nothing new."
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