12/04/09: Psychiatrist: Elizabeth Smart’s rapist was manipulative and used religion to get what he wanted

The Salt Lake Tribune
December 4, 2009
By Pamela Manson

Psychiatrist: Smart is best witness to Mitchell’s mental state

Courts » Michael Welner says the defendant manipulates situations to his advantage.

A psychiatrist who concluded that Brian David Mitchell is competent to stand trial in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart testified Friday that interviews with lay witnesses helped him reach his determination.

Those witnesses included Mitchell’s relatives, workers at the Utah State Hospital and ecclesiastical leaders, but one of the best witnesses was Smart because she had observed Mitchell almost every day for nine months, Michael Welner said.

Her impressions, along with other evidence, showed that Mitchell was manipulative and used religion to get what he wanted, he said. For example, he said, Mitchell gave blessings to his wife, Wanda Barzee, to placate her when she was angry that her husband was having sex with Smart.

Welner was testifying on Mitchell’s competency at a hearing in U.S. District Court.

The New York-based psychiatrist said Mitchell’s intelligence and his ability to control situations — including the time he convinced a police officer at the Salt Lake City Main Library that Smart was someone else — demonstrate that the self-proclaimed prophet is capable of understanding the charges against him and assisting his attorneys.

Welner testified that Mitchell worked with his attorneys in the state’s 3rd District Court, where he also faces charges, until fall 2004, when plea bargain negotiations fell apart. Then he started disrupting court hearings by singing, he said.

“In my professional opinion, Brian Mitchell made a decision that he needed to derail the process,” Welner said.

However, the singing and Mitchell’s cooperation with defense lawyers are selective, coming when it suits his purpose, according to Welner. He noted that U.S. marshals have seen Mitchell talking to his attorneys.

Welner testified that he tried to interview Mitchell on April 20 but he was mostly silent during a five-hour session, singing for about 20 minutes and shouting “repent” loudly several times. Mitchell at first sat with his eyes closed but his reaction changed when Welner played a tape of Smart’s interview with police.

A clip of Welner’s attempted interview shows Mitchell swivel his chair around when the psychiatrist starts playing the tape, open his eyes and watch intently. He scooted closer to the TV, occasionally raising an eyebrow or wrinkling his forehead.

When Smart starts talking about the first time Mitchell sexually assaulted her, he appeared to show emotion, Welner said. He said Mitchell’s reaction then was the same as the description of him watching the show “Charmed” at Utah State Hospital, where he would get very close to the set to see the “scantily clad” young women.

For the most part, Mitchell remained quiet and composed during a stressful situation, even when Welner raised the subject of Mitchell’s pedophilia, Welner testified.

The bottom line, according to the psychiatrist: “It informed my opinion that he’s perfectly capable of sitting quietly in court if he wanted to.”

Welner said he has been paid about $500,000 for his work on the case and he billed the agency rate of $425 an hour, a discount from his regular rate of $550. He testified that his agreement specified that the U.S. Attorney’s Office must accept his findings, even if they turned out to be not helpful to the prosecution.

He will continue his testimony on Monday.
The case so far against Mitchell, Barzee

Arrest » Brian David Mitchell, 56, and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, 64, are accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart on June 5, 2002, from her home in the Federal Heights neighborhood. They were arrested in March 2003 while walking in Sandy with the girl.

Medication » A judge in the state’s 3rd District Court has ruled Mitchell cannot be forcibly medicated to try to restore his mental competency; the same judge ruled Barzee could be forcibly medicated, a process that began at the Utah State Hospital in May 2008.

Indictment » The state case against Mitchell and Barzee stalled over the competency issue, leading the U.S. Attorney’s Office to begin a case against the couple. A federal grand jury issued an indictment last year charging Mitchell and Barzee with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor.

Competency ruling » Doctors at the State Hospital said this fall that they believe Barzee is now mentally competent. She pleaded guilty on Nov. 17 to the federal charges and agreed to testify against Mitchell in exchange for a 15-year prison term.

In: Cult News

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