Woman not on witness list in Elizabeth Smart case

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 7:39 PM

A list of witnesses in an upcoming competency hearing for a man charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart does not include his estranged wife, even though she has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Wanda Eileen Barzee pleaded guilty Tuesday to kidnapping as part of a plea deal that calls for her to cooperate with authorities and be willing to testify against Brian David Mitchell, her estranged husband.

Still, her name was not on a list of 29 people that federal prosecutors say could be called to testify during the Nov. 30 hearing for Mitchell. The list was posted Wednesday on a federal court docket.

Barzee's attorney Scott Williams said her plea agreement did not specify at what point she might be called to provide testimony.

"I'm not privy to reasons why the government, or the defense for that matter, would or would not call her," Williams said. "If we got a subpoena, she'd be a witness."

Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said there was never any consideration that Barzee would be called to testify during the competency hearing.

However, she could be a witness if the case goes to a trial, Rydalch said.

Telephone messages seeking comment from Mitchell's public defender Robert Steele were not immediately returned.

Barzee and Mitchell were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in March 2008. Barzee pleaded guilty to both counts and is expected to receive a reduced sentence of 15 years under the plea deal.

Prosecutors contend that Mitchell, a self-proclaimed religious prophet, is faking psychiatric symptoms to avoid responsibility for the kidnapping.

Court papers show prosecutors could call as many as 25 non-experts and four experts during the hearing. The non-experts include Barzee's mother, Dora Corbett, and several staff members from the Utah State Hospital, where Mitchell has been incarcerated.

Among the experts are forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, who concluded Mitchell is competent, and two experts in religion.

The testimony will focus on establishing that Mitchell's mental health has not significantly changed throughout his life, and he is not preoccupied with religion, the documents state.

Steele has said he would likely call Dr. Richart De Mier, a psychologist at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. as a defense expert.

De Mier evaluated Mitchell for federal prosecutors, and court documents indicate he concluded Mitchell was incompetent.

Smart was 14 in 2002 when she was taken from the bedroom of her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint. Barzee and Mitchell were arrested in March 2003.