Attorney expects Smart kidnapping suspect to be declared incompetent

SALT LAKE CITY – A suspect in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case could be held indefinitely at a state hospital if a judge rules she is incompetent to stand trial, which her attorney says he expects.

A judge was scheduled to rule Friday whether suspect Wanda Barzee, 58, is competent after she waived a hearing to weigh evidence on the issue.

Barzee’s attorneys, David Finlayson and Scott Williams, filed a motion Wednesday in which Barzee said she would request the court to rule “at its discretion” without the hearing. But she did not agree with two mental health experts who found her incompetent.

“I do not believe myself to be mentally ill or infirm or incompetent in the eyes of the Lord,” she said in the court document.

The experts were unable to “understand the special nature of my relationship with God and my role as a minister and servant unto Him. … Their inability to understand is also a result of their different belief system, and the influence of Satan’s subtle powers on them.”

Barzee and her husband, drifter and self-styled prophet Brian David Mitchell, 50, are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated burglary in the June 5, 2002, abduction of Smart, then 14.

They allegedly kept Smart as Mitchell’s second wife for nine months in Utah and California. They were found March 12 in Sandy, about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The couple also were charged in the attempted abduction of the girl’s 18-year-old cousin, Jessica Wright – seven weeks after Smart, now 16, was taken.

If Barzee were declared incompetent, she would be transferred to the custody of the state Department of Health’s human services division for treatment and evaluation for 90 days. She could be held until she was deemed mentally healthy, whereupon she could be sent to trial.

She could also be deemed unable to be restored to competency, Williams said.

Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom said prosecutors fully expected Barzee would be found incompetent after the experts’ reports were accepted. “We were willing to submit a month ago the issue to the court on the basis of the written report,” he said. “(The defense) wanted the evidentiary hearing.”

Yocom said that because the two mental health evaluators assigned to Mitchell disagree on whether he’s competent, attorneys likely would have to present evidence at Mitchell’s competency hearing, scheduled for Jan. 27.

Smart’s father, Ed, said his family is “not focusing on this. Elizabeth, I’m so happy with how she is doing, I couldn’t be happier so I just don’t worry about this,” he said. “I’m sure the legal system will take its course. I just want to see justice served.”


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The Associated Press, USA
Jan. 9, 2004
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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday January 9, 2004.
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