Thursday, November 19, 2009

Smart Kidnapper Pleads Guilty

downtown salt lake city skyline as seen from judge memorial high schoolYesterday, in Salt Lake's Federal District Court, Wanda Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002 and unlawfully transporting a minor across state lines. A short story in KUER News provides the details.

Her attorney, Scott Williams, indicated that Barzee will now be available to testify as part of the government's case against her estranged husband, Brian Mitchell.

As horrifying as her crimes are, our country has met Barzee's depravity with calm justice. Rod Exum has a moving column today in the Chatanoogan in which he compares the American justice system to the brutality of Somalia's. It has taken years for Barzee to plead guilty. During those years, judges and doctors and prosecutors and defense attorneys and members of the public and the Smart family have agonized over the question of whether Barzee was competent to be tried. We've spent these years postponing this result because we still believe that it would be more tragic to sacrifice the principles of justice that protect individuals from the government than it would be to delay punishing someone whose sanity is still in question.

Around the world, in Iran, China, Myanmar, and Somalia, powerful governments crush individuals with "quick justice." But often, the crimes committed in the name of justice are as bad or worse than those that were committed by those being punished.

When asked whether he and Elizabeth forgave Barzee, Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father answered, "Absolutely!" Mr. Smart had no obligation to extend mercy to Barzee, but he chose to meet her criminal violence with charity.

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