Witness: Religion used to justify Smart kidnapping

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The man accused of abducting Elizabeth Smart used religion and his exaggerated sense of his relationship with God to justify his actions in the same way as a priest who commits sex offenses, a psychiatrist said Monday.

Dr. Michael Welner testified at a hearing to determine if Brian David Mitchell, 56, is mentally competent to stand trial on federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.

Welner said priests who commit sex offenses often believe their religious position comes with entitlements.

"They routinely and dramatically distort their relationship with God," Welner said of research about priests who molest children.

In a tape of a police interview shown in court, Mitchell said Smart "had a glorious experience. She knows who I am. She knows I am a servant of the lord."

In October, Smart testified that she was taken at knifepoint, forced to marry Mitchell within hours of her abduction and raped daily throughout her captivity.

"He told me he was a prophet," Smart said then. "He said he was the voice of God on Earth and that he would reign over God's children until Jesus came."

Smart, however, said Mitchell was "not spiritual, not religious, not close to God."

Smart, now 22, also said Mitchell's religious revelations seemed to come when he wanted something.

Welner described the videotaped interview shown Monday as a "coercive interview." He testified that Mitchell was in control of himself after his arrest, provided no incriminating evidence to police and knew when to avoid answering questions. Welner said that indicates Mitchell can assist in his defense.

Prosecutors also played a portion of the interview that shows Mitchell singing. Welner told the judge the purpose of Mitchell's singing was the thwart questioning.

Welner also testified that Wanda Barzee told him Mitchell followed girls on buses and kept track of them but couldn't get their home addresses. Barzee told Welner that Mitchell knew Smart's address because he had been hired to work on the roof of the family's home.

Defense attorneys said Mitchell is incompetent to stand trial and cannot participate in his defense. They were expected to question Welner on Tuesday. The defense is also expected to call its first witness Tuesday.

Elizabeth Smart's father, Ed Smart, said after listening to the prosecutions' witnesses Monday and last week, he'll be shocked if Mitchell is found incompetent.

"It's so evident the whole thing is a charade, that he lies left and right whenever it's convenient for him, to avoid taking accountability for his actions," Ed Smart said.

This is day six of the competency hearing for Mitchell. Once the hearing concludes -- which is expected to happen Friday -- a judge will decide if Mitchell is competent to stand trial on federal charges of kidnapping.


Story compiled with contributions from AP writer Jennifer Dobner and Sandra Yi.

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