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updated 12/11/2010 12:03:09 PM ET 2010-12-11T17:03:09

Elizabeth Smart waited more than eight years for the word she heard Friday.

"Guilty," after a federal jury deliberated five hours to convict street preacher Brian David Mitchell of snatching Smart from her bed, at knifepoint in the dead of night, and having sex with her while he held her captive for nine months.

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Smart smiled as the verdict was read, while a bedraggled, bearded Mitchell sat at the defense table, singing hymns with his hands before his chest, as if in prayer.

“Today is a wonderful day,” Smart said outside the courthouse hours later, adding “I am so thrilled to be here, so thrilled of the verdict."

"I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened," Smart said.

Ordeal
It was a dramatic end to a tale that captured the nation's attention since she disappeared in June 2002: A 14-year-old girl mysteriously taken from her home, the intense search and her eventual discovery walking Salt Lake City's streets with her captors.

Smart, now 23, flew back from her Mormon mission in Paris to take the stand, and recount her "nine months of hell."

"The beginning and the end of this story is attributable to a woman with extraordinary courage and extraordinary determination, and that's Elizabeth Smart," federal prosecutor Carlie Christensen said outside the courthouse.

"She did it with candor and clarity and a truthfulness that I think moved all of us," she said.

Smart described in excruciating detail how she woke up one night to the feel of a cold, jagged knife at her throat and being whisked away by Mitchell to his camp in the foothills near the family's Salt Lake City home.

Within hours of the kidnapping, she testified, she was forced into a polygamous marriage with him. She was tethered to a metal cable and subjected to near-daily rapes while being forced to use alcohol and drugs.

Story: Smart storms from court during doctor's testimony

The five-week trial turned on the question of Mitchell's mental health.

Brian David Mitchell
Colin E. Braley  /  AP
Brian David Mitchell in Salt Lake City. Mitchell is on trial for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.

The thinly built, gray-haired Mitchell was routinely removed from the courtroom after loudly singing hymns and Christmas carols and taken to another room to watch the proceedings on closed circuit TV.

He kept his eyes closed in court and never spoke to anyone, including his lawyers.

His lawyers did not dispute that he kidnapped Smart but wanted him to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Such a verdict would have sent him to a prison mental hospital.

'Predatory chameleon'
Prosecutors countered that Mitchell was faking mental illness to avoid a conviction, labeling him a "predatory chameleon."

Smart testified she believed Mitchell was driven by his desire for sex, drugs and alcohol, not by any sincere religious beliefs.

Jurors did not buy the insanity defense, deliberating for roughly five hours to find him guilty of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of sex.

As the verdicts were read, the shackled Mitchell sat singing about Jesus Christ on the cross. Smart then turned to her mother and both smiled. Elizabeth Smart later hugged prosecutors.

"It's real!" father Ed Smart said on his way out of the packed courtroom, giving a thumbs up.

Smart and her family had hoped for the guilty verdict and a long sentence.

"(Mitchell) has left a trail of misery behind him," Ed Smart said.

Mitchell could face up to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 25. However, a judge also could impose an unspecified, lesser sentence, prosecutors said.

'Upset and frustrated'
To the chagrin of the family, the case was delayed for years after Mitchell was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in state court and a judge refused to order involuntary medications.

Federal prosecutors later stepped in and took the case to trial.

Christensen, the U.S. attorney, said one of the biggest challenges of the case was the six years between the time of the kidnapping and the time the case came into the federal justice system.

A parade of experts took the witness stand to say Mitchell had an array of diagnoses, from a rare delusional disorder and schizophrenia to pedophilia, anti-social personality disorder and narcissism.

Mitchell's former stepdaughter told reporters that she was shocked that jurors didn't see that he was mentally ill.

"He honestly believes God tells him to do these things," Rebecca Woodridge said. "He's upset and frustrated that the Lord is making him go through this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Juror 7: Smart’s testimony ‘compelling’

  1. Transcript of: Juror 7: Smart’s testimony ‘compelling’

    AMY ROBACH, co-host: It was a dramatic end Friday to a story that captured the nation's attention since 2002 . Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart was mysteriously taken from her home, and now eight years later, 12 jurors found Brian David Mitchell guilty of kidnapping and raping her. NBC 's Kristen Welker joins us from Salt Lake City . Good morning, Kristen .

    KRISTEN WELKER reporting: Good morning, Amy . Elizabeth Smart smiled in court when that guilty verdict was read. She has been waiting for this moment for a very long time.

    Ms. ELIZABETH SMART: And I 'm so thrilled to be here. I'm so thrilled with the verdict.

    WELKER: Victory for Elizabeth Smart .

    Ms. E. SMART: I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America , but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened.

    WELKER: After deliberating for only five hours, jurors found Brian David Mitchell , the man who kidnapped Smart and stole her innocence, guilty.

    Ms. LOIS SMART (Mother of Elizabeth): This is an exceptionally victorious day for us all. As mothers, as women, as daughters, that we can go forward and these things don't have to happen to us.

    WELKER: Prosecutors say the verdict is a tribute to Smart herself. The now 23-year-old took the stand and testified about her terrifying nine months in captivity when she was just 14 years old. She described a living hell, what it was like to be abducted at knife point, raped almost every day.

    Mr. ED SMART: He is a liar. He is a predator, and he is a sex offender.

    WELKER: At issue for the jurors, whether Mitchell was mentally stable enough to understand the difference between right and wrong. The prosecution called him a master manipulator. The defense argued Mitchell was delusional. But jurors didn't buy the insanity defense. "Juror #7": And when you sit for hours at a time and listen to incredibly unbelievable things that happened to a young lady like Elizabeth Smart , you've got to be pretty calloused to be able to walk away without having something tug at your heart.

    WELKER: While the verdict was read, Mitchell was singing hymns. A ritual he has done every day since the trial began. After court, Mitchell was led back to jail. Elizabeth Smart now finally free. And Smart will be celebrating Christmas with her family this weekend, because in just a few days, she'll travel to France to finish her religious mission, but she will be back in time for Mitchell's May sentencing. He could spend the rest of his life in prison.

    Amy: Kristen Welker , thank you. It took eight years for Elizabeth to hear Friday's verdict. Joining us now is US attorney Carlie Christensen , and the man who would like to be known this morning as "Juror #7." Thank you both for joining us.

    ROBACH: Thank you.

    Juror #7: Thank you.

    Ms. CARLIE CHRISTENSEN (United States Attorney for Utah): And, Carlie , let me start with you. I mean, this has been quite a day for you and the prosecution team. So tell me how you're feeling this morning.

    ROBACH: Well, obviously we feel very pleased and very satisfied with the outcome. I had a trial team that expended an extraordinary amount of effort and worked very hard to reach this result, so we're very pleased and satisfied by the jury's verdict.

    Ms. CHRISTENSEN: And, Carlie , jurors yesterday mentioned that Elizabeth 's testimony, particularly her attention to detail, obviously helped them render this verdict. How important was that testimony in your view?

    ROBACH: I don't think you can overstate the importance of Elizabeth 's testimony. She is a young woman of extraordinary courage and determination, and she had an amazing ability to recall the horrific details of that nine-month captivity, and was able to recount that for the jury in a very clear and candid way. So her testimony was critical to the success of this case.

    Ms. CHRISTENSEN: And Juror #7, let me ask you the impact of her testimony on you personally as you heard her words.

    ROBACH: Personally, as a father, I felt very deeply touched at the misery that she had to endure. It was a -- it was a compelling part of everything that we watched during these last few weeks.

    Juror #7: And let me follow up and ask you, after having heard that testimony, what was the mood of the jurors once the deliberations began?

    ROBACH: In the court sessions, we would break. During her testimony we would go back into the jury room and very little was said, if anything.

    Juror #7: Juror #7, was there any -- ever any doubt in your mind as to the guilt of this man?

    ROBACH: I wouldn't say that there was doubt. Because of the instructions that we received from the judge, we had to kind of apply some rules and to take a look at what it was that we were supposed to find for, and so making sure that we covered those in great detail was very important. And that kind of guided what we did.

    Juror #7: And Carlie , I want to ask you this, how important is this ruling for other kidnap victims, like Elizabeth , who are out there? People who have gone through similar circumstances, to see what she did, what she was able to do in court, and, of course, the outcome?

    ROBACH: I think it's a very important result for victims, because I think it can assure them that the criminal justice system works. I think the result today is a real testament to the effectiveness of our judicial system

    Ms. CHRISTENSEN: law enforcement, investigators, trial teams, witnesses. All of these people came together to recover Elizabeth and to achieve the result which we saw delivered by the jury yesterday.

    and it's the result of a combined effort of lots of people: Carlie Christensen and Juror #7, thank you both. We appreciate your time this morning.

    ROBACH:

Timeline: Elizabeth Smart abduction

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