Psychiatrist testifies Mitchell has no 'severe' mental illness

The Salt Lake Tribune/December 7, 2010

Brian David Mitchell stared into Noel Gardner's eyes with an intensity that caused the seasoned psychiatrist to look away.

"It was an incredibly intimidating stare," Gardner testified Tuesday at Mitchell's trial for the kidnapping and sexual assault of Elizabeth Smart. "I was no match for this guy."

But the "uncomfortable" April 2003 encounter - during which Mitchell said not a word - eventually helped Gardner conclude the 57-year-old defendant is not mentally ill by eliminating the possibility he is schizophrenic.

"It is completely outside the experience of a schizophrenic," said Gardner of Mitchell's penetrating gaze, explaining that schizophrenics avoid eye contact, believing it allows others to read their thoughts.

Gardner, testifying for the prosecution, contradicted a defense expert who claimed Mitchell suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. A second defense expert has diagnosed the defendant with delusional disorder.

The defense hopes to obtain a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity from a federal court jury. To do so it must prove Mitchell had a "severe" mental illness and did not know right from wrong when he allegedly abducted Smart, then 14, from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint on June 5, 2002, and raped her almost daily until her rescue in March 2003.

The defense experts said Mitchell - a self-proclaimed prophet who took Smart as a plural wife - is consumed by religious delusions, which include his notion of fighting the anti-Christ during an apocalyptic battle at the end of the world.

But Gardner said a defense expert from Missouri failed to recognize Mitchell's so-called delusions are merely "extreme religious beliefs," some of which are held by Mormon fringe groups. The opinion of the other expert, a Utah State Hospital psychiatrist, was clouded because he was treating Mitchell and had become Mitchell's advocate, Gardner said.

Gardner - the medical director of South Valley Mental Health - said he diagnosed Mitchell with anti-social and narcissistic personality disorders, which are not classified as "severe" mental illnesses.

He also said Mitchell is a pedophile.

The psychiatrist said Mitchell has five "personas," which he is "capable of turning on and turning off ... to suit his purposes."

Gardner said his stare-down with Mitchell in 2003 was a manifestation of what he called "The Intimidator," which Mitchell used to control Smart during her abduction, and to push away prying eyes in both Utah and San Diego.

When panhandling, Mitchell became what Gardner called "The Humble Penitent." That persona also came into play when Mitchell apologized to a judge in San Diego for breaking into an LDS Church, which gained him early release from jail. Gardner said the "Penitent" is evident in Mitchell's song selection during court, which includes many LDS hymns that are sung in preparation for the sacrament.

"The Clever Magician" is the persona Mitchell used when he wore Middle Eastern robes and used Biblical language "to give the appearance of religious devotion or to distract people from what's going on," Gardner said.

Mitchell assumed "The Religious Chameleon" persona while deflecting a police officer's efforts to remove Smart's veil at the downtown Salt Lake City library in the fall of 2002. "[Mitchell] quickly intervened in a highly stressful situation with amazing calm," Gardner said. "He was obviously presenting himself as a Muslim."

He also used that persona when telling a San Diego family he was investigating the LDS Church while actually plotting to kidnap their daughter.

That persona also was present when Mitchell impressed the Smart family into believing he was needy and trustworthy enough to do work at their home in 2001, at which time he devised his plan to kidnap the girl, Gardner said.

Gardner also identified a "Sadist" persona, which he broke into three subpersonas: the Humiliator Sadist, the Torturing Sadist and the Religious Sadist.

"The Humiliator Sadist," Gardner testified, was evident when Mitchell made Smart walk around naked in camp while tethered to a cable; when he forced the girl to drink, smoke and view pornography; and when he forced her to participate in oral sex and watch Mitchell and Barzee engage in sexual intercourse.

"The Torturing Sadist" came into play when Mitchell threatened to kill Smart and her family, and when he forced her to burn her pajamas and other links to her former life, Gardner said. That persona also showed up years earlier, Gardner said, when Mitchell placed dead mice in the oven to torment his former wife, and when he laughed about tricking his stepdaughter into eating her pet rabbit.

"The Religious Sadist," Gardner said, appeared when Mitchell perverted traditional religious practices. He introduced Smart to alcohol by making her drink wine as part of the sacrament, something not practiced in the LDS Church. And he claimed the Melchezidek priesthood gave him power to marry Smart and then rape her. He also had showed pornography to his stepdaughter during family prayer.

"It is simply impossible," Gardner said, "for a person with a severe mental defect to do this range of very clever, very successful, very situationally attuned presentations in ways that are consistently self-serving."

Gardner is scheduled to finish testifying today.

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