Law enforcement officers testify to Mitchell's competency

Save Story

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- The federal hearing to determine if accused kidnapper Brian David Mitchell is mentally competent to stand trial continued Wednesday. On the stand, several witnesses who said Mitchell often manipulates his behavior. Expert in religious extremism groups testifies

The judge heard hours of testimony from the prosecution's witnesses, including Richard Forbes. He has a long law enforcement career both with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's office and with the Los Angeles County Sheriff.

While working in Los Angeles, Forbes tracked followers of Charles Manson during the Manson trials. In Salt Lake, he became an expert on The Church of the Lamb of God -- headed by Ervil LaBaron.

LaBaron ordered the killings of numerous people he believed had betrayed him. In court Wednesday, Forbes testified LaBaron had numerous revelations, including many that were convenient for him when he wasn't getting his way -- just as prosecutors say Mitchell did.

Forbes testified that Mitchell employed the same tactics of isolation, threats and indoctrination that such groups use to control people.

"Brian David Mitchell believed lies, crimes and deceptions were all right if they were under his authority as a spokesman of God," said Forbes, who has read Mitchell's writings, a psychiatrist's report on him and testimony by Smart

Prosecutors also pointed out similarities in the writings of LaBaron and Mitchell and their upbringings. Forbes compared Manson to Mitchell in how they isolated those they wished to indoctrinate with their beliefs.

The defense, meanwhile, worked to outline the differences between Mitchell and cult leaders, including the fact that LaBaron's efforts were more organized and financed by his followers; he didn't have to panhandle or hitchhike. Deputy U.S. Marshals testify of Mitchell's behavior outside the courtroom

Two deputy U.S. Marshals also testified as witnesses for the prosecution Wednesday, saying Mitchell behaves differently when he feels he's being observed. They said when Mitchell sings at the jail, all they have to do is ask him to stop and he does -- a drastic contrast to the courtroom, where he's been removed numerous times for singing, including Wednesday's hearing.

The deputies also testified that Mitchell is quiet while in their custody, with his eyes only half open. However, one deputy testified he'd observed Mitchell discuss his case with his lawyers coherently with his eyes wide open. He said Mitchell's manner changed once he saw the deputy.

The deputies said Mitchell only seemed agitated and upset on one occasion when they were transporting him. That was the day Elizabeth Smart testified in court; Mitchell shouted "repent" several times. FBI agent testifies of interactions with Mitchell

In addition to the deputies, an FBI agent testified Wednesday. He said Mitchell told him that he expected the world would see him as a "child predator, sexual deviant, a monster."

The agent, George Dougherty, also testified during a federal court competency hearing that Brian David Mitchell asked for an explanation of what would follow his arrest.

Dougherty thought Mitchell was intelligent and understood what was ahead in the judicial process.

"He was very careful about how he would answer the questions," Dougherty said. "Almost like he was sitting on the witness stand. He was very calculated."

Dougherty recounted four interviews he had with Mitchell in March 2003 after Smart was found walking a suburban street with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.

The agent said Mitchell told him Smart could have returned to her family anytime and was never gagged as searchers called her name in the mountains behind the Smart family home.

Smart was 14 when she was taken from her home at knifepoint in June 2002. Now 22, she has not attended the current proceedings but gave testimony in October, saying she was raped after a marriage ceremony staged by Mitchell.

During cross examination, defense attorney Robert Steele asked Dougherty if Mitchell had said he considered it a "sign or blessing from God" because he had not been arrested during several encounters with police after Smart was abducted.

Dougherty confirmed Mitchell had made the statement. Ed Smart reacts to testimonies

The father of Elizabeth Smart said he doesn't need to hear more testimony; he knows Mitchell is competent to stand trial.

"I don't think that there's very much reason to have more testimony. I think it's very self-evident that you could take any extremist type group and say, 'Are they incompetent because they don't want to acknowledge or interface with someone?' Just because someone doesn't want to cooperate, I don't think that's any excuse to be found incompetent," Ed Smart said.. "I think it reconfirmed that Mitchell was an extremist, that he manipulated people; and whenever he didn't get his way, he acted like a baby, very immature."

The hearing is intended to determine if Mitchell, 56, is competent to stand trial and defend himself on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.

Mitchell has been diagnosed with a rare delusional disorder and was twice deemed incompetent for trial in a state criminal case. A Utah judge ordered him held at a state hospital in 2005 because the facility works to restore the competency of mentally ill defendants.

Leslie Miles, who worked as a psychiatric nurse at the hospital, testified Tuesday that she believed Mitchell faked psychiatric symptoms and behaviors to avoid prosecution and remain at the facility.

Mitchell's defense attorneys say the former street preacher is unable to participate in his defense.

The competency hearing is expected to last through Dec. 11. A ruling on whether Mitchell is competent from Judge Dale Kimball is not immediately expected.

If eventually convicted, Mitchell could spend the rest of his life in prison.


Story compiled with contributions from Sarah Dallof and AP writer Jennifer Dobner.

Related stories

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast