Doctor: Man charged in Smart case is competent

AP News
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Posted: Dec 03, 2009 7:22 PM

The man charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart has a narcissistic personality disorder but has been competent to stand trial since his 2003 arrest, a psychiatrist testified Thursday.

Dr. Noel Gardner evaluated Brian David Mitchell in 2003 as part of a state case against him. Gardner said he concluded then that Mitchell was "clearly competent."

"Mr. Mitchell does not now and never had a psychotic mental illness," Gardner said in U.S. District Court at a federal competency hearing for Mitchell.

The hearing is intended to determine whether Mitchell, 56, can stand trial on federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. It is scheduled to last through Dec. 11.

Mitchell has been diagnosed with a rare delusional disorder and was twice deemed incompetent for trial in the state case. In 2005, a Utah judge ordered him held at a state hospital that works to restore the competency of mentally ill defendants.

Mitchell's defense attorneys say the former street preacher is still unable to participate in his defense and often sits with his back to them and sings rather than discuss his case.

Gardner, a forensic expert in psychiatric cases who has worked in hospitals, said Mitchell's unwillingness to cooperate with attorneys and evaluators should not be interpreted as evidence of mental illness.

During a 2003 interview, Mitchell "did not say a word at all. He stared directly into my eyes with great intensity. ... It's something I have never seen a psychotic patient do," Gardner said.

Gardner said Mitchell's expressions of religious devotion were not genuine and he was using religion as a mechanism to acquire power.

During cross examination, Gardner was asked about a 1970 psychological evaluation of Mitchell _ then a teenager _ by a psychologist and a report from a probation officer assigned to Mitchell.

In the reports, Mitchell's behavior was described as alternating from withdrawn and dormant to explosive, sadistic and aggressive. His behaviors were said to include making violent threats and worrying his mother was poisoning the family meals.

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Defense attorney Parker Douglas asked if the behaviors were early signs of progressive mental illness. Gardner said that could be the case, but there was no indication of any later psychosis.

Mitchell was not in the courtroom Thursday. Judge Dale Kimball said he had asked not to be there. In the first three days of the hearing, Mitchell was removed from the courtroom for singing hymns and Christmas carols.

He is able to watch and hear the proceedings from a holding cell elsewhere in the building.

Smart was 14 when she was taken from her home at knifepoint in June 2002. She was found in March 2003 walking a suburban street with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.

Smart, now 22, has not attended the current proceedings but gave testimony in October, saying she was raped after a marriage ceremony staged by Mitchell.

The defense is expect to present its case next week.