Trial resumes for man charged in Smart abduction
Monday, November 29, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Defense attorneys for the man accused of abducting Elizabeth Smart are not disputing the facts in the case, but they’re trying to show at Brian David Mitchell’s trial that he’s mentally ill and can’t be held responsible.
Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her home at knifepoint on June 5, 2002. She was recovered nine months later — on March 12, 2003 — disguised in wig and sunglasses and walking a suburban Salt Lake City street with Mitchell.
Now 23, Smart has testified during Mitchell’s ongoing trial that she was forced to enter a polygamous marriage with Mitchell, endured near daily rapes, was forced to use drugs and alcohol, and was taken to California against her will about four months.
If convicted, the 57-year-old former street preacher could spend the rest of his life in prison.
After a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, the federal trial was resuming Monday for Mitchell, charged in U.S. District Court with the kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of illegal sexual activity.
As the trial moves into its fourth week, the defense is expected to call on psychiatric evaluators to testify about Mitchell’s competency.
Included on the list of defense witnesses is Dr. Richart DeMier, a forensic psychologist from a federal prison facility who was court-ordered to evaluate Mitchell in 2009, DeMier diagnosed Mitchell as paranoid schizophrenic and said he was not competent to stand trial.
DeMier’s findings contradict those of Dr. Michael Welner, New York City forensic psychologist hired by prosecutors to conduct his own evaluation. Welner diagnosed Mitchell with an anti-social personality disorder, psychopathy, alcohol abuse and said he is “malingering” — faking or exaggerating an illness to avoid prosecution.
Both evaluators were also on the stand during a 10-day competency hearing held in 2009.
DeMier said then he had based his conclusion on Mitchell’s belief that “he is divinely ordained to fulfill a special role at the end of the world, putting himself on par with Jesus or God.”
In March, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled Mitchell competent for trial.
Also expected on the witness stand is Utah psychologist Dr. Stephen Golding who found Mitchell incompetent for trial in a parallel state case. Golding has said Mitchell has “referential thinking” and ascribes special meaning to ordinary experiences.
During the 2009 competency hearing, Golding testified that religious-based delusions left Mitchell believing he was being pressured or commanded to do certain things. The directives came through emotionally distressing revelations, Golding said.
“Mr. Mitchell’s ego, his self, was constantly warring with what he thought he needed to do,” Golding explained last year. “Over time it developed into a pretty frank delusional disorder.”
Smart has testifed that she never believed Mitchell’s religious beliefs were sincere and that he used religion to manipulate others. That included Smart and Wanda Eileen Barzee, Mitchell’s now-estragned wife, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in the case last year after more than year of court-ordered treatment with anti-psychotic medications.
Last week, a tearful 65-year-old Barzee, who is serving a 15-year prison term, testified that she had once believed that her husband was being directed by God. In hindsight, Barzee said, she sees it was a ruse.
“He was a great deceiver,” she said.
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