Testimony begins in Mitchell's 10-day competency hearing

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Elizabeth Smart's accused kidnapper is back in court for a hearing that will determine how the case moves forward.

A 10-day competency hearing for Brian David Mitchell began Monday morning in federal court. Following the proceedings, a judge will decide whether Mitchell can assist in his own defense.

Louree Gayler, Wanda Barzee's daughter
Louree Gayler, Wanda Barzee's daughter

The daughter of Mitchell's estranged wife, Wanda Barzee, was one of four witnesses who took the stand Monday. Louree Gayler was 12 years old when she moved in with Mitchell and Barzee for two years.

Gayler said Mitchell was dominating and always put on an image for people. She said he was incredibly smart and was always studying.

Gayler also testified that Mitchell made her feel uncomfortable -- sometimes coming into her room, nestling up to her and whispering things in her ear.

She said she decided to leave the home after Mitchell and Barzee fed her, her pet rabbit for dinner as punishment.

"He's always been very calculating," Gayler said. "He's been dominating a lot of people for a long time, so it's time that he stops."

Another witness for the prosecution said Mitchell sings on purpose when he comes to court. David Talley was a psychiatric technician at the hospital from 2004 to 2006.

David Talley, former psychiatric technician at the Utah State Hospital
David Talley, former psychiatric technician at the Utah State Hospital

Talley told the court Mitchell talked about the legal system and said it was corrupt. Mitchell, he said, told him he understood the legal process and was not going to participate in it because he didn't want to be, quote, "judged of man."

Talley said he heard about Mitchell's singing in court one day and asked him about it.

"I said, ‘Why were you singing?' He said, ‘I wasn't singing. I was doing something.' I don't know, something. Anyway, but I said, ‘You were trying to disrupt the court?' and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, absolutely,'" Talley said.

Mitchell's religious writings were also the focus of testimony. Dr. Daniel Peterson, who is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, looked at Mitchell's book. He said The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah was "quite well done."

Testimony begins in Mitchell's 10-day competency hearing

Mitchell wrote Book One between 2002 and 2005. Book Two was written in the last year. Peterson said it was very much about affirming the role of Mitchell as the new leader and included many references from the Bible, The Book of Mormon and other scripture.

Peterson read passages that rejected the authority of former LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley; other passages referred to the restoration of plural marriage.

Peterson also said he disagreed with the findings of one doctor who found Mitchell incompetent to stand trial.

Elizabeth Smart's father, Ed Smart, said he agrees with Peterson's findings.

"It is showing that he's very competent, he is very smart," Ed Smart said.

Mitchell listened to all the testimony from another room. As in past hearings, he was kicked out of the courtroom for singing. This time he sang several Christmas hymns, including "Angels We have Heard On High" and "Silent Night."

A psychiatrist from New York who says Mitchell is competent is expected to testify during the next two weeks.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Randall Jeppesen.

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