Brian David Mitchell is going to be sentenced soon for kidnapping fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, holding her captive for nine months, starving her, forcing her to take alcohol and drugs, and raping her repeatedly. One of the aggravating factors put forth by the prosecution is that she suffered “extreme psychological injury.” Well, Mitchell’s defense attorney is saying Elizabeth DIDN’T suffer extreme psychological injury from what he calls Mitchell’s “extreme conduct.” He points out her statements that the kidnapping didn’t destroy her life and her future, her composure while on the witness stand, and the fact that she’s a well-functioning, stable adult who’s completing a college degree.
This is ridiculous. Elizabeth appears to have admirable courage and fortitude and has certainly coped with her situation much better than most people would, but NO ONE can go through what she went through without being very traumatized. The attorney is grasping at straws — probably because straws are all he has to grasp at. There’s not much to say to mitigate Mitchell’s crimes. But it’s still really not classy to try to use Elizabeth’s strength as an excuse to give Mitchell a light sentence.
The attorney also argues that the judge ought to take Mitchell’s (not great) physical health and his (very poor) mental health as a factor in sentencing. I can see more sense in that. But let’s face it. The guy is 57 years old now. Even if he doesn’t actually get a life sentence, he will die in prison. And he deserves it.
Some of the articles suggest that Mitchell’s lawyer is only trying to make sure Mitchell will not be able to appeal on the grounds of ineffective counsel. It is the duty of a defense attorney to pursue every possible means to help their client, but that doesn’t mean we the public have to like it.