Barzee still incompetent, ordered back to hospital

The Salt Lake Tribune/August 11, 2004
By Stephen Hunt

Accused Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Wanda Eileen Barzee was ordered back to the Utah State Hospital on Tuesday for another year of mental health treatment.

Barzee remains incompetent to stand trial and the nature of her illness remains in dispute, but 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton found "a substantial probability she may become competent in the foreseeable future."

The decision came after two hours of testimony from hospital psychologist Gerald Berge, who said Barzee was "more competent, somewhat" after treatment at the facility.

The judge said she found the evidence of Barzee's improvement "very persuasive."

Defense attorney Scott C. Williams claimed there had been no change in Barzee's mental status, arguing she should be released. She has been at the hospital since March in an attempt to restore her to competency.

Prosecutor Kent Morgan countered Barzee has yet to be properly diagnosed - three doctors have come up with three different possibilities. Morgan added that a number of treatment methods, including psychotropic medications, have yet to be tried by doctors at the hospital.

A court-appointed expert claims Barzee is a paranoid schizophrenic. A second expert said she suffers from "shared psychotic disorder" resulting from a close relationship with a dominant and psychotic personality - her husband and co-defendant Brian David Mitchell.

Berge said he also diagnosed shared psychotic disorder, but said he would change his finding to a "delusional disorder" if Barzee fails to respond to continued separation from Mitchell, or if Mitchell himself turned out not to be delusional.

Berge said Barzee's delusions include a belief that the late LDS Church leader Ezra Taft Benson gave Mitchell "the keys to the kingdom, establishing him as the head of the church," and that Barzee was "destined to be the Mother of Zion and play [organ] for the host of heaven."

Morgan insisted the so-called delusions were similar to the beliefs of those who consider themselves breakaway "fundamentalist" followers of the church and ascribe to revelations from God, polygamy and isolation from mainstream society.

He summed up by arguing Barzee needs additional treatment to help doctors discern between her delusional beliefs and cultural beliefs.

The judge said that of the eight criteria used to measure legal competency, Barzee has "mild to no impairment" in seven categories.

The category where Barzee has the most severe impairment - the ability to make reasoned legal choices - is also the one where she has made the most improvement, the judge said.

Berge had noted in an earlier report that Barzee's dependence had recently shifted from her husband to her attorneys, Scott Williams and David Finlayson. Berge added that while the shift in allegiance could ultimately be therapeutic, there was also an irrational component, in that Barzee believes God is directing the two lawyers.

Joked Morgan: "You would think they'd be doing a better job." Mitchell's competency is still undecided. Of the two experts who examined him, one said he is competent, the other said he is not. A hearing in which both experts will testify is set for Aug. 31.

Mitchell, 50, and Barzee, 58, allegedly kidnapped then-14-year-old Elizabeth at knife-point from her Federal Heights home June 5, 2002.

The two homeless street preachers allegedly held the girl captive for nine months before they were arrested.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.