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Papers detail mental health findings in Smart case

Papers detail mental health findings in Smart case



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Federal court papers show a forensic psychiatrist believes the man charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart suffers from disorders that include pedophilia, narcissism and malingering, a condition that suggests he may be exaggerating his illnesses to avoid prosecution.

The full findings of a 206-page report by New York City-based Dr. Michael Welner have not been made public. But details about Welner's diagnosis of Brian David Mitchell appear in a motion filed Sept. 29 by federal prosecutors who hired him as an expert in the case. Defense attorneys want to prevent Welner from testifying.

Mitchell's competency for trial on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in U.S. District Court is in dispute. A 10-day competency hearing is set for Nov. 30.

The Sept. 29 court filing does not make it clear whether Welner concludes that Mitchell, a self-styled prophet who wrote a 27-page religious manifesto, is competent for trial. Mitchell previously was diagnosed with a rare delusional disorder.

The papers show Welner disputes the earlier diagnoses but believes Mitchell, 55, suffers from an anti-social personality disorder, psychopathy, alcohol abuse and malingering. Court documents defined malingering as a condition characterized by the "intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms, motivated by external incentives such as ... evading criminal prosecution."

Mitchell's federal public defender, Robert Steele, declined to comment on the details in the prosecution's motion Wednesday.

The defense filed its motion under seal because it quoted extensively from Welner's report and contained medical information about Mitchell that is protected by privacy laws, Steele said. He also said a judge's order bars attorneys on both sides from distributing nonpublic case information, he said.

The defense contends that Mitchell -- who consistently disrupts court proceedings by singing hymns -- is incompetent for trial. That finding was twice made by experts in a 2003 state court case where Mitchell faces kidnapping and sexual assault charges.

The state's case stalled last year after a judge declined to order forced medications for Mitchell.

Smart was 14 when she was awakened from sleep and taken from her home at knifepoint in June 2002. She was found on the streets of a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell and his estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, in March 2003.

Now 21, Smart appeared in federal court last week as part of the competency proceedings. She said Mitchell forced her into a religious marriage, raped her daily and knew that he could be punished for his actions.

Defense attorneys contend that Welner's report mischaracterizes the evidence and "appears to be relying on information that has not been confirmed and/or corroborated," according to court papers.

The evidence included a review of records from the Utah State Hospital indicating Mitchell engaged in periods of silence described as "word fasts." Prosecutors say there is no information to suggest that the fasts are driven by Mitchell's religious beliefs, nor has Mitchell claimed that he was "commanded by God to be silent," court papers state.

Welner wrote that a psychiatric technician said Mitchell began word fasting after he heard another patient's conversations with staff had been used to prove the individual's competency for trial.

In another interview, hospital staff recalled that Mitchell once said, "I sing to disrupt the system so that I can come back to the hospital." Mitchell is quoted in a third report telling another doctor that "singing hymns in court was part of his duties as a prophet."

Federal prosecutors contend that Welner's report is more complete than any previous evaluation of Mitchell. Court papers say Welner reviewed previous competency evaluations and treatment records, relevant court filings, transcripts and police reports. Welner also observed Mitchell for five hours and conducted over 60 interviews with Mitchell's friends, family, former co-workers, church leaders, Utah State Hospital staff and Smart.

"Because Dr. Welner uncovered and considered far more information than any prior examiner, the defendant cannot seriously contend that his testimony is based on insufficient facts or data," court papers said. "The defendant merely disagrees with Dr. Welner's assessment of which facts are most significant and what conclusions can be drawn from those facts."

Such disagreements are not grounds for excluding Welner's testimony, prosecutors said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Jennifer Dobner writer

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