Mitchell lawyers trying to exclude religious experts' testimony

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Defense attorneys for Brian David Mitchell, the man accused in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, want to exclude testimony from two religion experts during Mitchell's federal competency hearing at the end of the month. Attorneys for Mitchell made their arguments before U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball Monday morning.

Mitchell's attorneys want to keep Dick Forbes, a former investigator for the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, and Dr. Daniel Peterson, a BYU Professor of Islamic Studies and an expert on scripture, off the witness stand.

The prosecution says Forbes has studied various religious groups such as Ervil LeBaron and could show Mitchell used similar arguments, such as how he received revelation, to manipulate and get what he wanted.

The prosecution also wants Peterson to show Mitchell's own religious book was well thought out and put together in way that required a lot of research and thought rather than being delusions.

Defense attorneys say the two are not qualified to testify whether Mitchell is competent to stand trial and their testimony is irrelevant. But federal prosecutors argue if Mitchell is delusional, they will find evidence of that in his religious writings.

Mitchell's attorneys say Mitchell's competency can not be determined by looking at the contents of religious beliefs.

The defense is also taking issue with New York psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner. He is among those that say Mitchell is competent to stand trial. They say Welner is not qualified to testify, in part, because he did not consult Mitchell's head doctor at the Utah State Hospital.

Federal prosecutors say Welner's evaluation is more comprehensive than those done by other doctors.

Prosecutors believe Mitchell is not delusional. As an example, they say Mitchell did not start disrupting court proceedings with his singing until after a plea deal in state court fell through.

The judge is expected to rule on the motions within a week.

As for Mitchell, he was brought into the courtroom about five minutes before the hearing was set to begin. He walked in quietly, but moments later, began singing. He did not stop, so the judge had Mitchell removed from the courtroom.

Attorneys on both sides declined to comment after the hearing.

Mitchell's competency hearing is set to begin Nov. 30.


Story composed with contributions from Sandra Yi and Randall Jeppesen

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