Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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Cold comfort justice for Elizabeth Smart


It seemed incomprehensible, the day that Elizabeth Smart was found alive.

The 14-year-old had been kidnapped in June, 2002, from her Salt Lake City bedroom by a drifter, Brian David Mitchell, and his wife. Nine months later, the young teen was found alive 18 miles from her home after her captors were recognized from an episode of “America’s Most Wanted.”

That was in March, 2003.

Fifteen years later, this case again sparks amazement.

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The Utah Board of Pardons announced in September that Wanda Barzee, who aided Mitchell in Ms. Smart’s kidnapping, was to be freed from prison by month’s end. Barzee, 72, had been sentenced to two 15-year prison terms, one federal and one state. While the Utah board initially said she would remain behind bars until 2024, it later acknowledged an error; it said she would be released Sept. 19 but remain under federal supervision — probation — for five years.

The reason is this: the federal and state sentences were to be served concurrently. That was plainly written in notations on the court docket at the time of state sentencing. Furthermore, concurrent sentences are common legal practice throughout the country.

This is understandably little solace for Ms. Smart, now a 30-year-old pregnant mom of two who works as a child safety advocate. She called her captor’s release “incomprehensible.” She said she remains frightened. Ms. Smart had been raped daily, treated as a slave by Barzee, and denied food and water for days at a time. Ms. Smart wants Barzee to remain behind bars, either in a prison or in a psychiatric ward.

Barzee has an order to stay away from Ms. Smart and her family. She’s on probation for five years. If she violates the terms, she will be re-incarcerated. That is cold comfort, and, at best, partial justice.

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