Utah abduction defendant competent, psychiatrist says

By Jennifer Dobner
Associated Press / December 4, 2009

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SALT LAKE CITY - The man charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart has a narcissistic personality disorder but has been competent to stand trial since his 2003 arrest, a psychiatrist testified yesterday.

Dr. Noel Gardner evaluated Brian David Mitchell in 2003 as part of a state case against him. Gardner said he concluded then that Mitchell was “clearly competent.’’

“Mr. Mitchell does not now and never had a psychotic mental illness,’’ Gardner said in US District Court at a federal competency hearing for Mitchell.

The hearing is intended to determine whether Mitchell, 56, can stand trial on federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.

It is scheduled to last through Dec. 11.

Mitchell has been diagnosed with a rare delusional disorder and was twice deemed incompetent for trial in the state case.

In 2005, a Utah judge ordered him held at a state hospital that works to restore the competency of mentally ill defendants.

Mitchell’s defense attorneys say the former street preacher is still unable to participate in his defense.

Gardner, a forensic expert in psychiatric cases who has worked in hospitals, does not believe Mitchell is schizophrenic or suffers from a delusional disorder.

Mitchell’s unwillingness to cooperate with evaluators and attorneys should not be interpreted as evidence of mental illness, Gardner said.

Gardner, who has reviewed interviews with Mitchell and the report of another psychiatrist, determined that Mitchell meets “every legal requirement for competency, independent of whether he has a mental disease or disorder.’’

During a 2003 interview, Mitchell did not say a word at all, Gardner testified.

“He stared directly into my eyes with great intensity,’’ Gardner said. “It’s something I have never seen a psychotic patient do.’’

Under cross examination, Gardner was asked about a 1970 psychological evaluation of Mitchell by a psychologist and a report from a probation officer assigned to Mitchell.

In the reports, Mitchell’s behavior was described as alternating from withdrawn and dormant to explosive, sadistic, and aggressive. His behaviors were said to include making violent threats and worrying that his mother was poisoning the family meals.

Mitchell was not in the courtroom yesterday.

Smart was 14 when she was taken from her home at knifepoint in June 2002. She was found in March 2003 walking a suburban street with Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.