Court OKs forcible medication for Elizabeth Smart kidnapper

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Supreme Court upheld a judge’s order that the woman accused of aiding in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart be forcibly medicated for mental illness.

Wanda Barzee, 62, has fought the forced administration of anti-psychotic drugs, saying through her attorneys the medication is against her religion.

A 3rd District judge ordered forced medication in June 2006.

Barzee, who along with her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, faces multiple felony charges in the abduction of Smart, has been deemed incompetent to stand trial three times.

Eight mental health professionals have evaluated Barzee and agree she suffers from a psychotic disorder and persecutory and grandiose delusions, including believing that God speaks to her through a television set. Evaluators have said the chance of restoring Barzee’s competency with medications is between 20 percent and 70 percent.

In its 3-2 decision Friday, the high court said the district court’s finding that it was “substantially likely” that Barzee’s competency could be restored was not “clearly erroneous,” and should therefore stand.

Chief Justice Christine Durham dissented, saying she believed restoration was “not substantially likely” and that she found it “impermissible for the State to intrude upon Ms. Barzee’s federal constitutional liberty interest in freedom from unwanted medications.”

It’s unclear when the treatment would begin. The Department of Human Services, which oversees the state mental hospital where Barzee is housed, must first review the court’s ruling with the Utah attorney general’s office and then talk with doctors about a treatment plan, said DHS Deputy Director Mark Ward.

Police said Mitchell, a self-styled religious prophet, then took Smart as his polygamous wife and hid her in plain sight, walking the streets of Salt Lake City dressed in robes and a scarf that covered her face.

Smart was found by police in suburban Sandy nine months later after being spotted by a people who had seen an “America’s Most Wanted” TV broadcast about the kidnapping that included a description of Mitchell.

Smart is now a student at Brigham Young University.

Barzee filed for divorce from Mitchell in 2004.

Mitchell has also been found incompetent to stand trial. He is also being held at the state mental hospital and has refused medications.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday December 17, 2007.
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