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Psychologist: Mitchell has personality disorder, but competent

By KSL.com | Posted - Dec. 7, 2010 at 5:21 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah psychiatrist who once evaluated Brian David Mitchell -- charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart -- says he believes Mitchell has narcissistic personality disorder but is competent to stand trial.

Dr. Noel Gardner testified Tuesday that he disagrees with defense experts who have diagnosed Mitchell with a rare delusional disorder and with schizophrenia.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Symptoms revolve around a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and sense of entitlement.

Individuals feel overly important and will exaggerate achievements and will often demand praise and admiration. They may be overwhelmed with fantasies involving unlimited success, power, love or beauty and feel they can only be understood by others who are, like them, superior. These symptoms are a result of an underlying sense of inferiority and are often seen as overcompensation.

Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV)

Gardner said Mitchell's ideas -- from religion to the use of a natural healing practice called lymphology -- were not delusions or psychotic.

In more than five hours of testimony Tuesday, Gardner said Mitchell is not delusional, not sincere in his religious beliefs and a pedophile.

Gardner evaluated Mitchell in 2003 as part of a court order, concluding he had a narcissistic personality disorder but was competent for a state court trial. Gardner says in the many cases he's evaluated he's most certain about this diagnosis because of the time spent on the case.

A judge, however, said later that Mitchell was not competent for trial in state courts. The state case stalled over the competency question, prompting federal prosecutors to take over the case in 2008.

Gardner also testified Mitchell has different personas for different people and said Mitchell's beliefs can change quickly. Referring to part of Mitchell's interview with the FBI and police, Gardner says Mitchell deflects any responsibility for the kidnapping with religion and makes himself to be the victim of law enforcement. Gardner referred to the tactic as a "classic bait and switch," something he says psychotic people cannot do.

Gardner said he attempted to interview Mitchell in 2003 as part of the evaluation but found him uncooperative. Mitchell refused to speak and only stared intently at Gardner.

"It was an incredibly intimidating stare," Gardner said, adding that he attempted to match Mitchell's unwavering glare. "After a while it was clear that I was not a match for this guy."

Gardner said the staring was useful, however, in eliminating a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

"It's completely outside the experience with a schizophrenic," Gardner said. He explained that typically people with schizophrenia have terrible eye contact. They're uncomfortable because they often believe everyone knows what they are thinking.

The 57-year-old Mitchell is charged in federal court with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of illegal sex.

Defense attorneys don't dispute that Smart was taken at knifepoint and held captive, but they contend Mitchell is mentally ill and can't be held responsible for the crimes.

On Monday, a dozen lay witnesses were called to testify for the prosecution. They described what Mitchell's behavior at the Utah State Hospital and during his current trial, was like at times when he believed he wasn't being observed. The witnesses said they believed Mitchell was putting on an act and he could start and stop his singing at will.

Gardner is a veteran forensic psychiatrist and director of South Valley Mental Health. He was expected to continue his testimony through Tuesday.

Prosecutors are still expected to call their final expert witness, Dr. Michael Welner, on Wednesday.

The jury should have the case by Friday.

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Story written with contributions from Pat Reavy, Sandra Yi and The Associated Press.

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