Elizabeth Smart’s alleged kidnapper to get new round of competency hearings

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The man accused of abducting Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart will get a new round of competency evaluations after he broke out into a Christmas hymn in court Friday.

Brian David Mitchell sang, “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel”– the name he went by as a street preacher, when authorities charged he snatched the 14-year-old girl from her bedroom in June 2002 and kept her as his wife for nine months.

Mitchell, who already had been declared competent to stand trial, closed his eyes and sang from a defense table for about 40 seconds before a judge ordered him removed from the courtroom.

“That’s enough, Mr. Mitchell, but that’s great,” 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton told Mitchell, who was in court for a scheduling conference. “He sings well.”

Mitchell’s lawyers said the defendant had been growing increasingly delusional in jail since September, when Atherton declared him competent after seven months of dueling evaluations.

The public defenders were prepared Friday to argue for new evaluations, and as they put on the case, the judge said his conduct seemed to underscore the need.

Prosecutors were unconvinced, but didn’t oppose another review.

“That indicates odd behavior, but all criminal behavior is odd,” Deputy District Attorney Kent Morgan said outside court. Morgan said it was “not something that convinces me” Mitchell was unfit to stand for trial.

Atherton said she was growing impatient with the defense delays, but set the competency hearing for Jan. 6-7. She said the trial would still start as scheduled Feb. 1, unless he is found unfit.

Also in January, Atherton will rule on defense motions asking her to sequester jurors and prevent prosecution witnesses from consulting one another before trial.

Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet, and his legal wife, Wanda Barzee, have pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and other felony charges in Smart’s knifepoint abduction. Police say she was taken to the Salt Lake City foothills near the home and sexually assaulted.

Mitchell allegedly wrote a manifesto claiming a revelation from God to take seven wives. Barzee was accused of helping hold Elizabeth captive, during which they wintered in southern California.

The couple was arrested on their return to Utah, when they were spotted walking a suburban street with Elizabeth in March 2003.

Barzee has been twice deemed incompetent to stand trial, and is undergoing treatment at a state mental hospital. She is scheduled to be re-evaluated next August.

Mitchell’s lawyers refused to take questions from reporters outside court Friday.

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Associated Press, USA
Dec. 4, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday December 4, 2004.
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