Elizabeth Smart Archive

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Brian David Mitchell a “Religious Chameleon,” Psychiatrist Testifies for Prosecution

SALT LAKE CITY (CBS/AP) More than eight years after Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home, the case may finally be coming to an end as prosecutors called the last of their rebuttal witnesses, a New York City-based forensic psychologist, who testified about an evaluation he did of the defendant, Brian David Mitchell.

Dr. Michael Welner testified about his 205-page report, which concluded that the 57-year-old Mitchell was competent to stand trial, but suffers from an anti-social personality disorder, psychopathy and alcohol abuse.

Welner’s evaluation of Mitchell, for which prosecutors paid more than $500,000, was sought by the government after a federal prison hospital evaluator, Dr. Richart DeMier, said he believed Mitchell was not competent for trial.

Authorities say Welner’s 2009 report is the most complete evaluation of Mitchell ever done.

Associated Press, Oct. 1, 2009 report

In making his determination, Welner testified, he reviewed 210 sources of information that included medical, mental health and police reports along with Mitchell’s religious writings. Welner also interviewed 57 people, including Smart, who Welner says is “really one of only two people who actually interacted with Brian David Mitchell when his guard was down.”

Welner testified that he attempted to interview Mitchell but said the defendant refused by sitting mute with his eyes shut for most of the five hours they spent together. Mitchell broke his silence only to sing hymns, and once to shout at Welner to “repent.”

On Tuesday prosecutors called a Utah psychiatrist who was one of two mental health experts who were court-ordered to evaluate Mitchell in 2003 in a parallel state case and who concluded then that Mitchell was competent for trial.

Dr. Noel Gardner said he disagreed with defense experts who have diagnosed Mitchell with a rare delusional disorder and schizophrenia. Gardner testified that he believes Mitchell is more properly diagnosed with an anti-social personality disorder and a narcissistic personality disorder.

Those disorders are characterized by a disregard for the safety of others, a lack of remorse, a grandiose sense of self–importance and arrogant or haughty behavior.

Gardner said he has identified a number of what he called religious personas – the intimidator, the humble penitent, the sadist, the clever magician and the religious chameleon – that provide proof of Mitchell’s cunning and manipulation skills.

“He uses them sometimes to do impression management, to create a situation that makes it more likely that he’ll get what he wants,” Gardner said. “It is simply impossible, in my opinion, for somebody with a severe mental disease or defect to do this range of very clever, very successful, very situationally [sic] attuned presentation in ways that are consistently self-serving.”

On cross-examination, however, Gardner conceded that a narcissistic disorder could progress into a delusional disorder.

– Source / Full Story: Brian David Mitchell a “Religious Chameleon,” Psychiatrist Testifies for Prosecution, Carlin DeGuerin Miller, CBS News, Dec. 8, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See Also

Complete coverage of the trial at CBS Crimesider

Religious expert analyzes text in Elizabeth Smart case

SALT LAKE CITY – An expert in religious texts testified Friday that the writings of the former street preacher accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart drew heavily from other religious works, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

As the trial for Brian David Mitchell enters its final phase, the testimony of Brigham Young University professor Daniel C. Peterson seemed to support the prosecution’s contention that the defendant is a smart, cunning person — an argument that runs counter to defense attorneys’ claims that he is mentally ill and can’t be held responsible in the case.

Peterson was the first in a string of witnesses federal prosecutors called on Friday to help shape a portrait of Mitchell’s character. He told jurors that the 27-page “Book of Immanuel David Isaiah,” thought to be an expression of Mitchell’s religious beliefs that spells out his divinely inspired calling to battle the Antichrist at the end of the world, was not an entirely original work.

“One of the things that strikes me about the (book) is the barrenness,” Peterson said. “In terms of doctrine, there’s nothing new.”

Peterson said the book, dated April 2002, and a subsequent edition drafted after Mitchell’s 2003 arrest quotes heavily from the Bible, particularly the Old Testament and its Book of Isaiah, the Book of Mormon and hymn books. The book also draws from modern writings, including Betty Eadie’s story of her near-death experience, “Embraced by the Light.”

“I think the composition of these writings is much the way a student would compose a term paper,” Peterson said.

– Source / Full Story: Religious expert analyzes text in Smart case, Associated Press via Yahoo! News, Dec. 3, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog