CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Professor: parole board’s hands tied with Barzee release

Sep 18, 2018, 7:46 AM
Elizabeth Smart is asking officials to reconsider releasing Wanda Barzee, one of her kidnappers....
FILE PHOTO -- Elizabeth Smart after speaking from the steps of the Utah Capitol building about Wanda Barzee (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)
(Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Convicted kidnapper Wanda Barzee is set to be released from prison tomorrow, and Elizabeth Smart is urging officials to reconsider: Is there anything that can be done?

Speaking at a press conference last week, Smart argued Barzee is still a danger to the community, saying she is shocked to know one of her kidnappers will walk free tomorrow.

“I would urge the powers that be, and anyone who works under them, to really, strongly reconsider the situation,” says Smart.

Barzee will be released Sept. 18, 2018.

(Utah State Prison via Associated Press)

But legal analysts say the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole may not be able to consider any further action under the law.

“I think the parole board is worried that they have no basis for continuing to hold Wanda Barzee,” says University of Utah Law Professor Paul Cassell. “And that’s why they’re taking what, I think what everyone agrees, is an unfortunate step of releasing her at this time.”

The Board says Barzee will have spent 15 years in prison by tomorrow, the maximum allowed by her conviction and sentence. That’s why Cassell believes it’s extremely unlikely Barzee will be kept in prison, despite Smart’s plea.

“In this circumstance, I’m afraid that there is very little the victim’s family can do to address the release.”

Barzee will be under federal supervision for five years following her release.

Barzee pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2009 and state charges in 2010 related to Smart’s 2002 kidnapping, eventually testifying against her husband, Brian David Mitchell, as part of that plea deal.

Mitchell stood trial in 2010 after years of delay related to competency issues in the state and federal court systems. He is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison.

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Professor: parole board’s hands tied with Barzee release