Utah Kidnap Suspect Ejected From Hearing

New York Times/March 11, 2005

Salt Lake City -- The man charged with kidnapping teenager Elizabeth Smart was kicked out of his mental competency trial Friday after he began singing a hymn, the fourth time he has been removed from hearings for singing.

As Brian David Mitchell was led away, he shouted, "He mocks and scorns the son of God. ... You know I speak the truth. You know I speak the truth."

The hearing then resumed with defense expert Stephen Golding testifying that Mitchell has become increasingly more mentally disturbed and unfit for trial.

Golding said Mitchell has vowed to do everything possible to disrupt the trial and has said he will not allow Elizabeth -- who he contends is his wife -- to be questioned on the witness stand.

Prosecutors argue that Mitchell is competent to face trial, and psychiatrist Noel Gardner agreed Friday.

Gardner testified that he believes Mitchell's unwillingness to participate in the process is "related to how he conceptualizes the world, and flows not from a mental disorder but flows from an extremist, idiosyncratic, fundamentalist set of religious ideas about reality."

Mitchell, 51, a self-proclaimed messenger of God, is accused of kidnapping then 14-year-old Elizabeth in 2002, sexually assaulting her and keeping her as his second wife.

He and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 59, are charged with kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated kidnapping. He is also charged in the attempted abduction of Elizabeth's cousin seven weeks after her kidnapping.

Barzee, who has filed for divorce, has been ruled incompetent to stand trial and is being treated at a state facility.

Mitchell's lawyers have said he has grown delusional in jail since September, when he was declared competent after seven months of evaluations. He was ordered to undergo a new round of mental evaluations in December after he broke into a hymn during a hearing.

After Mitchell was removed from the courtroom Friday, Judge Judith Atherton told his lawyers to use frequent breaks to keep him informed of the proceedings.

"He will start singing or yelling if we start talking to him," attorney Vernice S. Trease said, before quickly telling the judge that she does not believe he is doing it on purpose to create an impression of mental instability.

The attorneys eventually stopped the visits, telling the judge they only upset Mitchell further.

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