Mitchell Likely to Regain Competency, Judge Rules

Mitchell Likely to Regain Competency, Judge Rules

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The man accused in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart continues to be mentally incompetent and unable to stand trial, but there's a likelihood he'll regain competency in the future, 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton ruled Monday.

Atherton recommitted Brian David Mitchell to the Utah State Hospital in Provo for another year and set a review hearing for him on Dec. 18, 2006.

Monday's hearing was Mitchell's first review since he was found to be mentally incompetent and transferred from the Salt Lake County jail to the hospital in August.

All defendants who are ruled incompetent to stand trial are brought back in front of a judge after 90 days for an update on their progress.

"The judge made the finding that he's incompetent, continues to be incompetent, but he is substantially likely to regain competence," said Deputy District Attorney Clark Harms.

Privacy laws prevent the state hospital from releasing specific information about Mitchell. But patients there are generally placed in private rooms with cameras that allow for round-the-clock monitoring. Over time, observations are decreased and patients are moved to private or shared rooms without cameras.

The hospital's forensic unit is secure, although patients can freely access a dining area and day room. Patients also typically attend individual and group therapy sessions daily.

Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, face multiple felony charges in the abduction of Smart from her Salt Lake City home in June 2002. They were captured nine months later walking along a sidewalk in suburban Sandy.

Barzee has also been declared incompetent to stand trial, and doctors at the state hospital say they have tried all options to restore her competency except medication, which she refuses to take.

Barzee will face a "Sell hearing" in February, which could determine if she meets the criteria to be forcibly medicated. Sell hearings were established by a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Under the Sell criteria, prosecutors must prove a compelling interest is at stake and that medicating Barzee will further that interest. They must also show that court-ordered medications would not harm Barzee, nor prohibit her ability to defend herself.

The hearing will be the first of its kind in Utah.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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