Psychiatrist says Mitchell is capable of controlling his behavior

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Prosecutors questioned their key witness Friday at a competency hearing for the man charged in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner took the stand in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City for the first of what is expected to be several days of testimony.

The New York-based forensic psychiatrist testified that Mitchell began singing in court, during a turning point in the legal proceedings.

Welner said Mitchell sings to avoid going to trial. He said Mitchell told two doctors that if he went to trial, he would be found guilty.

The doctor said that Mitchell has been singing in court since 2004, after plea negotiations fell through.

As part of Welner's testimony, prosecutors also played portions of a 5-hour interview Welner did with Mitchell. The video showed Mitchell walking in to the room with his eyes closed. Welner testified Mitchell came in to the room with no intention of talking to him.

The video also showed Mitchell singing loudly and aggressively about repenting during an early part of the interview. Welner said he didn't feed into Mitchell's behavior, and Mitchell stopped. He said Mitchell remained silent for the rest of the time.

Prosecutors also played a video clip showing Mitchell watching Elizabeth Smart's interview with police. The clip shows Mitchell turning around in his chair and staring intently at the TV. Welner said he wouldn't rule out the possibility that Mitchell was sexually aroused.

Welner said Mitchell's behavior in the video is not psychotic. He said Mitchell approaches things strategically and is capable of sitting quietly if he wants to.

Welner is the latest of several witnesses to testify that Brian David Mitchell appears to be careful and calculated. Welner interviewed Smart for five hours and says her impression of Mitchell was as an organized thinker and a man who made decisions aimed at avoiding capture.

The 10-day hearing is expected to continue through Dec. 11.

Mitchell's defense attorneys say he is incompetent to stand trial and cannot participate in his defense against charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and The Associated Press.

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