Woman charged in Smart kidnapping competent for trial

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Wanda Barzee, one of Elizabeth Smart's accused kidnappers, is competent to stand trial. That's according to doctors at the Utah State Hospital. It could begin the criminal process against her since she was charged in 2003.

Dora Corbett, Barzee's mother, was at Friday's hearing and said her daughter was more like herself now then when she was arrested. When asked why she though Barzee was competent, Corbett replied, "I don't know, just being a mother I guess."

She said it was mother's intuition. She also said she thought Barzee was ready to accept responsibility for what happened.

The state's case against Barzee has been delayed since 2004, when a judge ruled she was incompetent. Barzee began involuntary medication at that hospital in May of 2008 after twice being deemed incompetent.

Barzee's attorneys asked the judge to continue Friday's competency review hearing so they could review the hospital's report and consult with experts about it. They said they were not surprised by the report and wanted to see the best course of action happen, whatever that may be.

Barzee's attorney Scott Williams said, "It does my heart good to defend Ms. Barzee and to play that role. Barzee is, frankly, a gentle, kind, loving person."

Prosecutors said they were pleased and encouraged by the report.

"This is what we advocated for, and it appears that judgment has been validated at least by the state hospital," said prosecutor Alicia Cook.

Prosecutors say this is one of the first cases in Utah where the option of involuntary medication has been used.

Cook said, "This result is encouraging. It obviously affirms that it's a route we should consider with incompetent defendants who are refusing to participate in treatment."

Despite this victory, Cook said she supported the defense's request for more time to review the report.

"I have great trust in the state hospital. I have a lot of faith in the professionals there. I believe that they do very good work, but this is a case that has been pending for years and it does deserve the thorough look that the defense wants to give to it," she said.

At the hearing, Barzee looked noticeably healthier, but did not speak. Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, was also in attendance, along with Barzee's mother, Dora Corbett.

The hearing will continue Nov. 19. Attorneys for Barzee could challenge the hospital's report. If they do, there could be another competency hearing. It will ultimately be up to the judge to determine competency.

Barzee's former husband, Brian David Mitchell, was declared incompetent to stand trial on state charges. A judge ruled he cannot be forcibly medicated. The state's case is on hold as federal prosecutors pursue their case against him. Two weeks ago, Elizabeth Smart recounted her 9-month ordeal during the federal competency hearing for Mitchell.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Randall Jeppesen.


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