Barzee incompetent for trial

Defense doesn’t believe she’ll ever be capable

A doctor at the Utah State Hospital says Wanda Barzee is still mentally incompetent to stand trial.

But the question was raised Monday in 3rd District Court whether the woman accused in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart will ever have her competency restored.

Barzee, 58, appeared before 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton for a 90-day progress update. She was sentenced to the Utah State Hospital Jan. 9 and arrived March 24 after waiting for bed space to become available.

A report prepared by Dr. Gerald Berge at the hospital found Barzee’s condition was unchanged.

“It is clear there has not been a significant change in her diagnosis,” defense attorney David Finlayson said in court.

The defense then argued there was nothing in the report that showed a substantial likelihood her competency would ever be restored.

Prosecutors and Atherton disagreed.

“I don’t see the report to say that,” Atherton said. “On the face of it, the report suggests to me there is some likelihood (of her competency being restored).”

To make sure, however, an evidence hearing was scheduled for Aug. 10. At that time, Berge could be asked to testify in court whether he found in his evaluation any probability of Barzee’s competency being restored.

If Barzee is determined to be incompetent without the likelihood of her competency ever being restored, defense attorney Scott Williams said by law that would require her immediate release.

But the state could immediately petition for her to be civilly committed to the State Hospital, and it is unlikely she would simply walk out of the hospital a free woman anytime soon.

If it is determined that Barzee’s competency could be restored, she would be sent back to the hospital for more treatment.

Barzee sat quietly in court Monday wearing a blouse and green A-line dress. Her mother, Dora Corbett, sat in the courtroom just a row behind her daughter and listened to the proceedings.

Outside the courtroom, Corbett told reporters she thought her daughter looked fine and said she has had contact with her since her transfer to the hospital.

“It’s kind of hard. She’s still in jail for what she’s done. I still love her,” Corbett said.

When asked whether she thought her daughter was competent to stand trial, Corbett replied quietly, “In some ways not.”

Barzee and her husband, 50-year-old Brian David Mitchell, are both charged with kidnapping and assaulting Smart in June 2002. Doctors have split on whether Mitchell is competent to stand trial.

Mitchell has several hearings scheduled in the next two months to determine both competency and public access to the hearings.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Deseret Morning News, USA
June 29, 2004
Pat Reavy
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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday June 29, 2004.
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