13 Nov 2010

Testimony in competency hearing for Smart abductor indicates feigned mental illness to manipulate court proceedings

Deseret News - Utah December 1, 2009

Witnesses describe Mitchell as intelligent but controlling

by Pat Reavy | Deseret News

Brian David Mitchell is an extremely intelligent but also a controlling and manipulating man, according to those who know him or have studied his work.

That was how the man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting Elizabeth Smart was characterized Monday during the first day of his 10-day federal competency hearing. Four of the government's 24 witnesses took the stand, including a religion professor from BYU, two former workers from the Utah State Hospital and the youngest daughter of Wanda Barzee, Mitchell's estranged wife and co-defendant.

The day's most gripping testimony came from LouRee Gaylor, Barzee's daughter who lived with her mother and Mitchell from the time she was 12 until she ran away from them when she was 14 to live with her father.

Gaylor, now 34, said her mother had already been sexually abusive and wasn't in a healthy state of mind when she moved in with Mitchell. But Mitchell made things worse by trying to control everyone around him.

"He's always been very calculated," she said. "He was dominating in his tone, the way he talked to you."

Gaylor called Mitchell "isolated" and "creepy" but also "incredibly smart" and "very disciplined." Mitchell was always bringing home books from the library and reading. Many of his books were on wilderness survival, hypnotism and mind control, and books on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, she said.

Mitchell and Barzee only let Gaylor out of the house for church activities and work. She was not allowed to watch TV, and she would spend hours praying in their bedroom with them, she said. They would also punish her if she didn't do things they wanted.

She recalled one incident when she came home and asked what was for dinner. Barzee simply laughed and said "chicken," she recalled.

It wasn't until the next day she discovered the dinner had actually been her pet rabbit, Peaches.

"They fed her to me for dinner," she said.

Mitchell would also inappropriately hug Gaylor and nuzzle close to her at night while she was in her bed, she testified. Her mother would openly talk about her sexual activity.

"I got the impression they were trying to invite me into their activity … trying to get me to join their relationship, also," she said.

Monday's hearing also focused on the writings of Mitchell — in which he claims God chose him to lead his people. Daniel Peterson — a professor of Islamic and Arabic studies at BYU, an LDS bishop and a person who spends his days studying and analyzing religious text — said the writings were intelligently written, coherent and "marinated in scripture."

He dissected the "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah," both the first and second volumes. The first set was written by the street preacher between 2002 and 2005. The second set, which is about 10 pages, was written by Mitchell during the past year.

"It's quite well done," Peterson said. "The quasi-scriptural language is very well-handled."

Specifically, Mitchell's writings are deep with allusions related to mainstream LDS teachings, Peterson said. A person who has knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would likely understand more of Mitchell's writings than a person from another religion, he said, because the writings heavily borrow from the Bible, Book of Mormon and other LDS scripture.

"It's astonishing how many references there are to previously canonized scriptures," he said. "It's a quite impressive production. … These are not poorly chosen examples. They are very sophisticated."

Prosecutors attempted to pick apart a report from Dr. Richart DeMier, who concluded that Mitchell was incompetent to stand trial after Mitchell was sent to a federal facility in Springfield, Mo., last year. In his report, DeMier classified Mitchell's writings as "grandiose" and wrote, "certainly, his beliefs are in conflict to the mainstream LDS Church."

Peterson took issue with DeMier's conclusion, indicating that the writings were not dissimilar to those of other breakaway Mormon groups.

During cross-examination, defense attorneys questioned the grandiose angle more. Peterson admitted, "This book very much has one major theme — Brian David Mitchell."

But he said all prophets could be considered grandiose to a certain extent. And to nonbelievers, their writings and teachings "will come off as arrogant if not mad."

Defense attorneys played a video clip Monday of Barzee speaking with Dr. Michael Welner, the prosecution's key witness. Barzee said that to the best of her knowledge, her estranged husband wrote the books during the night as he received revelation.

But Peterson said that, if true, that makes Mitchell's writings even more remarkable if he wrote without other reference materials. He believes, however, that Mitchell had access to some books because entire chapters of scripture and lists of authors are quoted in his manifestos.

Defense attorney Parker Douglas tried to show that just because someone has an ability to put together quotations or recite scriptures, that alone is not something to base a mental diagnosis on.

Two former psychiatric technicians from the Utah State Hospital also testified Monday.

Tye Jensen, who worked for nearly three years on the same floor where Mitchell was housed, testified that Mitchell kept to himself when he first arrived but after a while, he would have intelligent, well-versed conversations about nutrition, classic literature and classical music with him.

That all changed when Mitchell heard about another patient who was found competent to stand trial based on observations and reports by the hospital's psych techs. It was at that point, according to Jensen, that Mitchell went on a word fast.

While at the hospital, Mitchell also became friends with another patient, John, who became a mentor to him. The two would talk often and read scriptures together. As a result of the friendship, Jensen said Mitchell began self grooming more and watched four or five hours of TV per day.

Mitchell's favorite show was "Charmed," which Jensen described as "a lot of skin and witches."

He said Mitchell would sometimes spend hours "just walking the halls." He would talk to patients often, but seldom talked to staff members.

Former hospital worker David Talley testified that Mitchell's relationship with John, a former state prison inmate, was "like a little puppy dog, like a student-teacher relationship."

The two would often discuss the legal system in addition to religion. Talley said Mitchell understood the court system, he simply didn't want to participate in it because he refused to be "judged by man."

Talley testified that he asked Mitchell one day about his singing in court.

"Why'd you do that?" Talley asked.

"Because I won't be judged by man," Talley said was Mitchell's reply.

"So you're disrupting the system on purpose?"

"Yes, absolutely," Mitchell replied.

Mitchell remained in the courtroom for only 12 minutes Monday morning before a judge had him removed. Mitchell, who has been kicked out of most court appearances because of his constant singing, sang a selection of Christmas songs Monday — "Joy to the World," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," "Silent Night," "Away in a Manager" and "Glory to God."

Mitchell was taken into a back room, where he could monitor the courtroom proceedings.

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KSL News - Salt Lake City December 1, 2009

Witnesses talk of Mitchell's religion, past during competency hearing
By Marc Giauque

SALT LAKE CITY -- Former in-laws, a past religious leader, a woman who claims Brian David Mitchell wanted her to become his second wife and a worker at the State Hospital were among witnesses Tuesday in Mitchell's mental competency hearing in federal court. Mitchell is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002.

He sang primary songs and well known LDS sacrament hymns in the courtroom before a judge dismissed him to another room.

Among those testifying was Evelyn Camp, one of the sisters of Wanda Barzee -- Barzee pleaded guilty last month in the kidnapping case. Camp told the court Mitchell seemed to her like a man who needed attention and who was jealous of Barzee. She also said he was very controlling.

At one time, while Mitchell and Barzee were living near the Camps, she said Barzee brought her a box of family photos and asked her to destroy them. Most of the photos were of family, but one in particular disturbed her. "It was of two little girls sitting on a chair in a kitchen," she told the court. She said they were naked and did not look happy.

When Camp confronted Barzee about the photo, she said Mitchell explained the photos were of his children and asked, "Who wouldn't take photos of their little girls naked?"

Several months before the kidnapping, at the funeral for Camp's step-father, Camp said Mitchell and Barzee showed up wearing robes. They also visited the house, telling Camp's husband, Dick, that Mitchell had written a book on his religious beliefs and mentioning the name of Emmanuel David Isaiah.

"He knew his name was Brian," Camp said. "And he's going, ‘So who is this Emmanuel David Isaiah?' And Brian looked up and said, ‘He stands before you.'"

Another woman told of her interaction with the Mitchells in 1997 and 1998 when they were living with an Orem family. Alysa Phillips Landry, for a time, was engaged to a man whose family believed the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had strayed since the time of President Ezra Taft Benson and Mitchell was the man who was going to set the church right.

She said the family believed in a practice called Lymphology -- what they perceived as the power Jesus Christ used to bring about his miracles in the New Testament. They also believed in living the "Law of Consecration" and the "Law of Polygamy."

Landry told the court women in the family were regarded as objects and they also believed it was OK for someone to "try-out" a woman before marriage. Landry said the Mitchells and the family parted ways after the family became concerned Mitchell was moving too quickly in regard to their beliefs.

Another woman who encountered Mitchell in 2001 told of his efforts to get her to marry him. Julia Adkison had met him while he was on the street and while she was working at a downtown store. Adkison had recently left the Kingston polygamist clan and was interested in religious issues. One day, she spoke with him while he was preaching on the street. She told the court Mitchell would begin singing hymns when people confronted him, but then would resume a normal conversation with her when they would leave. He told her the people were not ready for what he had to say.

Later, she said Mitchell tried to convince her that she was supposed to marry him, that the time was right for him to take on another wife. On cross examination, attorneys asked Adkison about who Mitchell thought he was in relationship to God. She said he believed he was Christ or "of Christ," and that's why he wore a robe.

Also testifying Tuesday morning was a former psychiatric nurse at the State Hospital in American Fork. Leslie Miles said in 2003, while she was working as the nurse-manager at the hospital, Mitchell appeared to be "selectively mute." She said he would refuse to talk with some people, especially male employees, but would be more open to talking with younger females on the staff. She told the court Mitchell often sang, but agreed to stop after she told him some of the other patients were becoming agitated and she was concerned for Mitchell's safety.

Miles told the court Mitchell would also begin singing when guards would come to take him to various hearings and would stop singing when they left.

She also testified that staff became concerned when Mitchell took interest in a patient who had extra privileges. She said the staff believed he was trying to use him to get access to things.

Outside the courtroom, Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, said he wasn't surprised by the testimony. He believes Mitchell has the idea he is above the law.

"Obviously, he is fairly charismatic and is able to ingratiate himself to others easily when he gets his way, when people are willing to go his route. Otherwise he stonewalls just like in court," Smart said.

On cross-examination, defense attorneys asked very few questions of the witnesses, except to clarify their expertise on judging whether or not a person is mentally ill.

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Google News - Associated Press - December 1, 2009

Nurse: Suspect in Smart abduction faked symptoms


SALT LAKE CITY — A psychiatric nurse who observed the man charged with abducting Elizabeth Smart said Tuesday she believes he faked psychiatric symptoms and behaviors to avoid prosecution and remain at a state hospital.

Leslie Miles, a former employee of Utah State Hospital, took the witness stand during the second day of the competency hearing for Brian David Mitchell, 56, who faces federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.

Mitchell was able to take care of himself and ask for things while in the hospital's forensic unit but refused to participate in any treatments or therapies, Miles said.

"It was the refusal that was a big red flag that he was faking," said Miles, who worked at the hospital for 13 years and was the nursing supervisor of the forensic unit. "He wouldn't engage in any way to move himself along."

Mitchell has been diagnosed with a rare delusional disorder and was twice deemed incompetent for trial in a state criminal case. A state judge ordered him held at the hospital in 2005 because the facility works to restore the competency of mentally ill defendants.

Mitchell was moved to the Salt Lake County jail last year after his prosecution began in federal court.

The 10-day hearing in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City will determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial. A ruling from Judge Dale Kimball was not immediately expected.

If eventually convicted, Mitchell could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Mitchell's defense attorneys asked Miles, who now teaches nursing at Brigham Young University, whether his mental illness could be "encapsulated," meaning symptoms or delusions could show up in one area of his life while he was high-functioning in other areas.

Miles said that could be the case.

Defense attorney Robert Steele also asked if Mitchell's habit of hymn singing could be a coping mechanism to soothe himself in stressful situations.

"He wouldn't talk about what was going on, so it's difficult to make assumptions," Miles said.

Mitchell has been removed from court on both days of the hearing for the disruptive singing. He also broke into song at the hospital, but Miles and other staffers testified that Mitchell stopped or started the behavior to control uncomfortable situations.

The same was true of Mitchell's so-called "word fasts" — periods when he refused to speak to staff members or other patients, Miles said. Instead, he wrote notes or gestured to indicate what he needed.

Miles said she "highly" questions whether Mitchell is mentally ill because he doesn't exhibit other associated symptoms such as depression or anxiety.

Garth Rosenlund, who supervised Mitchell at the O.C. Tanner manufacturing company for about six years, said the former tool and die cutter also sang at work when he became agitated or wanted to "go outta touch."

Rosenlund said Mitchell also read out loud from the Book of Mormon and talked to co-workers about his "off the wall" religious beliefs.

In 2000, Mitchell asked a woman who worked at a downtown Salt Lake City shoe store to become his plural wife, testimony showed.

Witness Julia Adkison said she met Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, at the mall where they panhandled and preached. Adkison said the couple asked her to sell her engagement ring and join their family during a four-hour meeting in a city park.

"Personally to me, he was just another religious fanatic," said Adkison, who was then 19 and had grown up in a polygamous sect.

Smart was 14 on June 5, 2002, when she was taken from her home at knifepoint. She was found in March 2003 after motorists saw her walking along a suburban street with Mitchell and Barzee, his now-estranged wife.

Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping as part of a plea deal that calls for her to cooperate with authorities.

Smart, now 22, gave her testimony in October, saying she was raped after a marriage ceremony staged by Mitchell.

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