Competency hearing begins in Elizabeth Smart case

AP News
Posted: Nov 30, 2009 8:12 PM

Witness testimony during a federal court hearing for the man charged in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart on Monday began to paint a picture of a self-absorbed, intelligent and controlling person.

Brian David Mitchell was also concerned about his public image, wanted to be recognized as a Mormon prophet and was obsessive about his personal habits _ eating on a rigid schedule and exercising for hours at a time _ and his religion, said stepdaughter LouRee Gaylor.

"Religion was everything," said Gaylor, whose mother, Wanda Eileen Barzee, has already pleaded guilty to kidnapping and other charges in the case.

Gaylor, 34, was the last of four prosecution witnesses who testified.

Mitchell, 56, was indicted on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines in 2008 _ five years after he was arrested. He faces a lifetime prison sentence if convicted.

Religion was at the center of daily life, said Gaylor, who lived with the couple for two years beginning in 1988. But the kind image Mitchell projected to outsiders was a ruse, she said.

"It was a cover-up," said Gaylor, who moved out after learning the couple had cooked and served her a pet rabbit for dinner one night. "It was so they could get people to do things for them."

At home, Mitchell was dominating, used abusive language and displayed inappropriate sexual behavior, including showing her pornographic pictures during a family prayer session, Gaylor said.

Mitchell's federal public defenders did not challenge Gaylor's statements on Monday.

Federal prosecutors contend Mitchell is competent and faking or exaggerating psychiatric symptoms to avoid prosecution.

But defense attorneys dispute that conclusion and say the former street preacher is unable to participate in his defense. In state court, Mitchell was diagnosed with a rare delusional disorder and twice deemed incompetent for trial, stalling a criminal case there.

On Monday, Mitchell repeated a pattern of disruptive court appearances, singing Christmas carols _ including "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" _ for 12 minutes before being removed to a holding cell where he could hear and watch the hearing.

After the hearing, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball's will determine how the case proceeds _ either to a trial or toward treatment that could restore Mitchell's competency.

Also Monday, two psychiatric technicians who worked at the Utah State Hospital when Mitchell was held there testified. Tye Jensen and David Talley both said Mitchell was smart and formed relationships with other patients.

He often walked the hospital halls for hours and prayed while standing at a window with a towel over his head, sometimes bouncing up and down on his feet, Jensen said.

Daniel Peterson, a Brigham Young University professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, gave the court an analysis of Mitchell's religious writings, including the 27-page manifesto known as the "The Book of Emmanuel David Isaiah."

The tract outlines Mitchell's own brand of religion, a mix of early Mormon theology and teachings from practitioners of alternative medicine and New Age spiritualists. Peterson said the book and a second tract written last year are "marinated" with religious references and appear to be heavily researched or copied from the Bible or Mormon scriptures.

"It's quite well done," Peterson said. "It's an impressive production in a certain sense."

In response, defense attorneys showed a video clip of an interview in which Barzee tells a psychiatrist that Mitchell did not use reference books, but told her he was writing down revelations he received at night.

Smart was 14 on June 5, 2002, when she was taken from her home at knifepoint. She was found in March 2003 after motorists saw her walking a suburban street with Mitchell and Barzee.

Barzee has pleaded guilty to kidnapping as part of a plea deal that calls for her to cooperate with authorities.