Witness: Suspect in Smart case not faking illness

AP News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2009 7:29 PM

A court-appointed forensic psychologist testified Thursday that the man charged with kidnapping Elizabeth Smart isn't faking mental illness to avoid prosecution.

Dr. Richart DeMier was questioned by defense attorneys on the ninth day of a U.S. District Court hearing to determine if Brian David Mitchell is competent to stand trial for the 2002 abduction.

DeMier said his conclusion was based in part 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."

DeMier believes Mitchell isn't faking _ or malingering as a prosecution expert said _ because his symptoms are consistent with his illness.

"Most people who are malingering want to be seen as mentally ill," DeMier testified. "Mr. Mitchell abhors the thought of being seen as mentally ill. It's something he can't accept."

DeMier said Mitchell's delusions led him to believe that cooperating with defense attorneys would be an "abandonment of his beliefs."

DeMier has diagnosed the former street preacher as paranoid schizophrenic and said Mitchell is not competent to stand trial on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.

During the hearing, the disruptive Mitchell has remained in a courthouse holding cell where he can hear and see the proceedings. Testimony indicated he had chewed up several napkins, stuffed pieces in his ears and sat with his back to a video monitor to tune out the proceedings.

Smart was 14 when she was taken from her home at knifepoint in June 2002. She was recovered nine months later walking the streets of a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.

The hearing is scheduled to end Friday. A ruling by Judge Dale Kimball was not immediately expected.