Court: Forced Meds for Kidnap Suspect OK

December 1, 2007

Salt Lake City - The Utah Supreme Court on Friday upheld a judge's order that the woman accused of aiding in the 2002 kidnapping of teenager Elizabeth Smart be forcibly medicated for mental illness.

Wanda Barzee, 62, has fought the forced administration of anti-psychotic drugs, saying through her attorneys that the medication is against her religion.

A district judge ordered forced medication in June 2006.

Barzee has been deemed incompetent to stand trial three times. She and her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, face multiple felony charges in the abduction of Smart.

Eight mental health professionals have evaluated Barzee and agree she suffers from a psychotic disorder and persecutory and grandiose delusions, including believing that God speaks to her through a television set. Evaluators have said the chance of restoring Barzee's competency with medication is between 20 percent and 70 percent.

In its 3-2 decision Friday, the high court said the district court's finding that it was likely that Barzee's competency could be restored was not "clearly erroneous," and should therefore stand.

Chief Justice Christine Durham dissented, saying she believed restoration was not likely and that she found it "impermissible for the State to intrude upon Ms. Barzee's federal constitutional liberty interest in freedom from unwanted medications."

It's unclear when the treatment would begin. The Department of Human Services, which oversees the state mental hospital where Barzee is housed, must first review the court's ruling with the Utah attorney general's office and then talk with doctors about a treatment plan, said DHS Deputy Director Mark Ward.

Barzee's Salt Lake City attorney, Scott Williams, was out of his office and not immediately available for comment.

Elizabeth Smart was taken from the bedroom of her Salt Lake City home in June 2002 and found nine months later with Barzee and Mitchell, a homeless man who had once worked as a day laborer at the house. Barzee and Mitchell are charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, burglary and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

In 2004, Barzee filed for divorce from Mitchell, who has also been found incompetent to stand trial. He is also being held at the state mental hospital and has refused medications.

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