Judge orders man confined for mental treatment
(CNN) — The man accused of kidnapping Salt Lake City, Utah, teenager Elizabeth Smart three years ago was found mentally incompetent to stand trial Tuesday.
District Judge Judith Atherton ruled that Brian David Mitchell, 51, was suffering from a delusional disorder based on his religious beliefs, leaving him unable to make decisions in his best interest and assist his defense.
The judge ordered Mitchell confined for mental “treatment intended to restore the defendant to competency.”
The decision means that Mitchell, who calls himself “Emmanuel,” will not be tried on six felony charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary unless his condition improves.
His wife and alleged accomplice, Wanda Eileen Barzee, 59, was charged with the same six felony counts but was found incompetent to stand trial in January 2004.
Mitchell pleaded not guilty to the charges last September. Each of the counts carries a life sentence.
Smart’s father, Ed, called the judge’s decision a “relief” that would spare his daughter the trauma of a trial.
“As long as he’s behind bars where he can’t hurt anybody, that’s the most important thing, he said.
“And whether that required us to go to trial, or whether it requires us to do whatever we have to do to not have him back on the street, that’s what’s important.”
Ed Smart said if Mitchell is ever ruled competent, his daughter, now 17, would be prepared to testify.
“She’s a strong girl,” he said. “She doesn’t want to see him out again.”
Elizabeth Smart was taken at knifepoint from her bedroom in middle of the night on June 5, 2002. She was 14 at the time.
Her younger sister, Mary Katherine, witnessed the abduction and alerted her parents, setting off a massive search that drew nationwide attention.
Mitchell once did odd jobs around the Smart home in the affluent Salt Lake City neighborhood.
Smart was found in Mitchell and Barzee’s company the following March about 15 miles from her home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy.
Mitchell, who advocates plural marriage as part of his religious beliefs, told investigators he considered the girl his wife and believed his actions were directed by God.
Atherton repeatedly had Mitchell removed from the courtroom during competency hearings over the past several months for interrupting proceedings by singing hymns and shouting religious pronouncements at her.
In her ruling, Atherton said Mitchell “believes that he is a prophet of God … with specific responsibilities that must be fulfilled, such as calling people to repentance, reinstituting plural marriage and suffering at the hands of the wicked in a manner similar to Jesus Christ.”
He also believes “that if he is convicted, God will deliver him in due time, and that he will be called upon to engage in a great apocalyptic battle between himself, as the King of Zion, and the Antichrist,” the judge wrote.
Two of the three psychiatrists who evaluated Mitchell determined he was delusional and incompetent to stand trial; the third said he was merely narcissistic, not delusional, and was therefore competent.
Atherton said she was convinced by the evidence that although Mitchell understood the proceedings against him, he was too mentally ill to assist in his defense, meeting the standard for incompetence under Utah law.
The two aggravated sexual assault counts against the couple state that with the assistance of Barzee, Mitchell raped, attempted to rape, and forcibly sexually abused Smart or attempted to do so.
The charges also allege the pair restrained Smart by a cable and threatened her at knifepoint that she or her family would face harm if she did not comply with Mitchell’s demands.
The charges also say the couple later tried to abduct Smart’s favorite cousin.