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Elizabeth Smart to testify at competency hearing

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge will allow "lay" witnesses, including Elizabeth Smart, to testify at the upcoming competency hearing for Brian David Mitchell.

This will be the first time Elizabeth Smart will take the stand against Mitchell, one of two people accused of kidnapping her more than seven years ago.

Judge Dale Kimball denied a motion by Mitchell's defense in which attorneys argued Smart's testimony and those of others were not relevant to determining whether or not Mitchell was competent to stand trial.

In his ruling, Kimball said Smart's testimony will give a full picture about Mitchell's day-to-day interactions and whether he was preoccupied with religion. He said Mitchell himself has made their testimony relevant because of his refusal to cooperate in "any psychological evaluations or diagnostic tests."

Elizabeth Smart's father, Ed Smart, told KSL he wasn't surprised by the ruling.

"What can a professional bring to the table when somebody is not cooperating?" Smart said.

Elizabeth Smart to testify at competency hearing

He said the judge's ruling was expected and his daughter had been preparing to testify against Brian David Mitchell. He said it will be interesting to find out if Mitchell will disrupt the court with his singing again, or stay quiet so he can stay in the courtroom during Elizabeth Smart's testimony.

Federal prosecutors said Elizabeth Smart will testify Mitchell was driven by sex, not religion.

The judge also said Smart will be giving mostly facts and federal prosecutors will have an expert witness for opinions on a mental diagnosis.

On Friday, Elizabeth's father said her experiences with Mitchell could build a strong case that Mitchell is competent to stand trial on federal kidnapping charges.

"Elizabeth can certainly provide what she dealt with for nine months, how he manipulated the system, how he got what he wanted, all under the guise of religion," said Ed Smart.

Mitchell's attorneys filed a motion to preclude lay witnesses from testifying at Mitchell's competency hearing. At a hearing on Friday, they argued that Smart could talk about her experiences with Mitchell but could not give opinions about his state of mind.

Ed Smart expects, ultimately, Mitchell will be ruled competent to stand trial. That would contradict a finding in state court on kidnapping charges. But federal prosecutors have long argued different rules apply in the federal system.

Mitchell was found incompetent to stand trial on state charges. This is his first federal competency hearing.

Elizabeth Smart will take the stand on Oct. 1, to accommodate her leaving for an LDS mission to Paris.

Federal prosecutors are not commenting on the ruling, and defense attorneys did not return our calls.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Marc Giauque.

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