Shoplifting Hearing for Elizabeth Smart Kidnap Suspect Postponed

Shoplifting Hearing for Elizabeth Smart Kidnap Suspect Postponed


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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A misdemeanor theft court hearing Tuesday for the accused kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart was postponed because his mental competency evaluations aren't yet finished.

Although the charge is not related to the kidnapping charge Brian David Mitchell and his wife face in the abduction of Smart from her bedroom last summer, no case can proceed while competency is being examined, said Kristina Swickard, director of social services for the Salt Lake Legal Defenders.

"They're still in the middle of doing it. The work is being done, but it's taking a while because of the level of paperwork, the records that need to be gone through," she said.

Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill said officials also were concerned about the safety of physically transporting him from the Salt Lake County Jail, about eight miles southwest of the downtown municipal court.

But the overriding issue was Mitchell's mental competency, Swickard said.

Mitchell's court-appointed attorney, David Biggs, is Legal Defenders' assistant director.

Justice Court Judge Zane Gill rescheduled the shoplifting hearing for Sept. 8, to give the examiners 90 days to finish their work.

Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated burglary in the 15-year-old's June 5, 2002, abduction.

The homeless couple, who say they had revelations from God, also have been charged with aggravated burglary, attempted aggravated kidnapping and conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping in a second attempted abduction -- that of Smart's 18-year-old cousin, Jessica Wright -- seven weeks after Elizabeth was taken.

Mitchell and Barzee allegedly kept Elizabeth as Mitchell's second wife for nine months in Utah and California. They were found March 12 in Sandy, a suburb about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City, nine months after she disappeared.

Elizabeth's younger sister, Mary Katherine Smart, the only witness to the abduction, said a man with a gun came to the girls' bedroom in the middle of the night.

Police later determined the abductor had a knife, not a gun.

Barzee also is undergoing mental evaluation. Both are being held on $10 million bond.

Tuesday's pretrial hearing was for Mitchell's arrest Sept. 27 on suspicion of shoplifting at a downtown grocery store. He pleaded innocent to the misdemeanor retail theft charge on March 14.

Swickard said the examiners will submit separate reports to 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton, who will decide whether Mitchell is competent to stand trial.

Mitchell's mental state could come up again in later legal proceedings.

At trial, the defense could claim that the defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity. At sentencing, attorneys could ask for a lighter sentence because of mental illness.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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