Utah Suspect Avoids Forced Meds for Now

Utah Supreme Court Interrupts Plan to Forcibly Medicate Woman Charged in Elizabeth Smart Case

Associated Press writer/March 11, 2008

The Utah Supreme Court has ordered a temporary halt to a plan that would forcibly medicate a woman charged in the 2002 kidnapping of teenager Elizabeth Smart in an effort to restore her mental competency.

Attorneys for Wanda Eileen Barzee filed an emergency petition with the court Tuesday, seeking to prevent a state judge's order to medicate Barzee from taking effect until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the matter.

Last week, state Judge Judith Atherton had directed the Utah State Hospital to begin "immediate medication" of Barzee. The order was issued Friday and delivered to the hospital Monday.

In a one-sentence order issued late Tuesday, Utah Chief Justice Christine Durham granted a provisional stay of treatment pending a review of the petition from Barzee's attorneys. It was unclear how long that would take.

A telephone message left after hours for Barzee attorney Scott Williams and for Utah State Hospital administrator Dallas Earnshaw were not immediately returned.

Earlier in the day, Earnshaw said doctors had begun the treatment program. He could not say whether Barzee had refused the treatment as she had in the past, or whether doctors had to use force to inject her with psychotropic drugs.

"Very rarely would we actually have to hold somebody down," Earnshaw said. "In situations like this when we've gone through due process, that's explained and they typically will take the medication without any fuss or fight."

Williams said earlier Tuesday that Barzee's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to be filed Wednesday.

Barzee, 62, and her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, face criminal charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault for allegedly abducting Smart, then 14, from her home in Salt Lake City's upscale Federal Heights neighborhood.

The transient couple were arrested in March 2003 after they were spotted walking through a suburb with Smart, whom Mitchell had taken as another wife.

Barzee has been at the Provo psychiatric hospital since 2004, when she was first found incompetent to stand trial. Doctors have testified that Barzee claimed to be the "mother of Zion" and to receive messages from God through a television.

In 2006, Atherton said Barzee met the criteria for forced medication. Utah's high court upheld the ruling in December, and last month Atherton directed the state hospital to begin the medication process.

Doctors had voluntarily delayed beginning medications pending Williams' announcement that he would seek a hearing before the U.S. high court. In her ruling last week, however, Atherton repeated her order and said attorneys had presented "no legitimate argument" for further delays.

Like Barzee, Mitchell, 54, was found incompetent for trial and is in the state hospital. Atherton has yet to decide whether Mitchell also meets the standards for forcible medication.

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