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There’s a rhythm to the Universe. Seriously. How else to explain that the jury finally returned a verdict in the Trial That Dragged On For 8 Years of Brian Mitchell, the abductor of Elizabeth Smart, at virtually the same time that Oprah Winfrey chose to try and pad her ratings by interviewing Dr. Petit? Both cases involved armed home invasions. Both are headline-grabbing, horrific affairs. But the Elizabeth Smart case bears some review here, too.

As I write this, Elizabeth Smart, the victim in a horrific home abduction, is about to address the media, after the jury found her abductor guilty. If you’ll recall, the now-20-something Smart was taken at gunpoint from her home in the middle of the night, by a deranged drifter, Brian David Mitchell, and his “wife,” Wanda Barzee.

To refresh your memory, these whack-jobs kept her prisoner for nine months, repeatedly subjecting her to rape and psychological abuse. Miraculously, she escaped and these criminals were captured and brought to justice. Barzee is currently serving a 15 year sentence. Mitchell has of today been convicted, but not yet sentenced. Smart will address the media shortly, with a public statement, but has said she will not take questions until she returns from her mission trip for her church (she’s a Mormon).

A couple of observations –

Elizabeth Smart is an amazing individual. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be abducted as a fourteen-year-old, live in captivity for nine months, be raped on a daily basis, escape, and then have the strength to rebuild your life, and even testify against your captors. To have been through so much and to have come through it so well is a tribute to her character.

The reason this has gone on so long (remember – the abduction took place in 2002) is that our legal system bends over backwards to protect the rights of the perps – at the expense of the victims. Under our Constitution, the accused have the right to a swift and speedy trial. Shouldn’t the victims have those same rights? How can you call it “justice” when you let a guy like Mitchell game the system to avoid trial for eight years?

This also brings into sharp focus two things that played into the Petit case, namely that the bad guys stalked their victim(s) for some time before committing the crime, and that neither family anticipated a home invasion or abduction, and neither had taken any serious steps to make their homes more secure/less attractive a target. It’s obviously impossible to say that any steps they might have taken would have changed the outcomes, but logic dictates that the more difficult you make it to get into a home, the less likely it will be for someone to try.

For the Smart family, these events are something that will follow each of them forever. The good news is that they were able to get their daughter back. She lived. She has apparently come through the experience a stronger person. There were lessons to be learned (as far as security goes) and they have learned them. The bad news is that things like this change you forever. Elizabeth Smart and her family will never look at the world in quite the same way. I’d wager their lives are in a permanent state of “Condition Orange” forever and for always.

Not much more to say about this, other than this: as the divorced father of a nine-year-old daughter who currently lives with my ex, the Elizabeth Smart scenario is in the Top Ten of my List of Nightmares. Fortunately, my ex agrees, and takes home security as seriously as I do. For we don’t live in Mayberry. Not any more.

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  1. I’ve never made a mistake of that magnitude before, but I know I have hired people before that betrayed my trust. I don’t think it’s stupid to try to give people a break. I think it is though, if you trust without verifying, fail to keep an eye on what you prize the most, and allow people to take advantage of you. I can’t speak to what kind of impression this guy made as a house painter, and I’m not aware of what kind of painting this idiot did (inside versus outside would make a huge difference in my mind). But hindsight is always easier than foresight.

  2. The reason this has gone on so long (remember – the abduction took place in 2002) is that our legal system bends over backwards to protect the rights of the perps … Under our Constitution, the accused have the right to a swift and speedy trial. Shouldn’t the victims have those same rights?

    Delay is a criminal defense tactic to wear out the prosecution, victims, and witnesses. And if such delays cause a temporary inconvenience to the prosecution, the defense changes tune faster than than an American Idol reject. “My client has the right to a speedy trial” is the new strategy.

    The book to read is “Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice” by Judge Harold J. Rothwax. The author is a NYC judge – a jurisdiction admittedly more loopy and soft than most of Normal America. But the defense tactics are probably standard practice everywhere in the USA.

    But delay, obfuscation, and idiot plea deals that Rothwax describes are probably just as common everywhere. e often conspired to by both defense and prosecutor to keep the system from breaking down

  3. In the Brian Mitchell case, however, the reason that the trial was delayed for so long was not to protect his rights. It was largely due to evaluating the man to determine whether he had the capacity to determine right from wrong when he committed his crimes and did he have the competency to aid in his own defense. The man is/was obviously mentally ill. These are complex issues for which there are not always clear answers. The worst thing that could have happened is if the prosecution rushed their case and lost, allowing this criminally insane nut job go free.

    By contrast, these issues were not at play in the Petit home invasion case.

  4. I still remember praying for the safe return of this now young woman. I know this is aweful to say since I do pray and attend church on a regular basis, but there’s no chance I could ever forgive this truely EVIL creep and I hope he dies a slow painful death.

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