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Highly agitated Mitchell still incompetent for trial

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 19 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

He held up court for 2 1/2 hours, but once he arrived it took less than a minute for a highly agitated Brian David Mitchell to be removed from the courtroom.

When court finally resumed, a judge found that Mitchell, accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting Elizabeth Smart in 2002, is still incompetent to stand trial. Prosecutors say they will now seek to have him forcibly medicated in hopes of restoring his competency.

Before the hearing, Mitchell could be heard yelling from his holding cell at the Matheson Courthouse before he was even brought into Judge Judith Atherton's 3rd District courtroom. His tirade continued when he stepped into the room and directly yelled at Atherton.

Continuously spouting religious babble, Mitchell several times yelled, "Repent ye, repent ye," and told Atherton, "How dare you (wear) those filthy robes. Forsake those robes and kneel in the dust." He further tried to mock Atherton's authority by saying she wore the "robes of the false priesthood."

In past hearings, Mitchell has taken a seat next to his attorneys before being removed for his outbursts. Monday, Mitchell got about two feet into the courtroom and was led right back into the holding cell without ever having a chance to sit down.

A few minutes after he was removed, he could again be heard screaming "repent ye, repent ye" and talking about the "lord almighty" and "speak the words of truth to you" and something more about "your filth."

Several court bailiffs ran back to the holding cell to control Mitchell. They then stood nearby outside the holding cell for the rest of the hearing, but Mitchell did not cause anymore disruptions.

"I need to get my robes dry cleaned," Atherton joked after Mitchell left the room. She also noted for the record that Mitchell was "extremely agitated" during his brief appearance Monday.

Mitchell was declared incompetent to stand trial in December of 2005. Monday was the date set for his one-year review hearing.

The hearing was delayed, however, because he initially refused to be transported from the Utah State Hospital in Provo. Mitchell's attorneys even asked the court if their client could be absent from the proceedings.

But Atherton signed an order saying Mitchell "cannot refuse to come to court" and ordered he be transported immediately.

"It was important for me to personally assess his demeanor," she said in court.

Once the hearing started, Atherton revealed that doctors at the State Hospital had found Mitchell is still not competent to stand trial.

Deputy district attorney Kent Morgan said Mitchell had not participated in any therapy at the hospital and the state would now take steps for Mitchell to be forcibly medicated. He noted that doctors at the hospital also recommended in their report that "psychotherapy medication should be considered."

"Our intent is to file a petition for a forced medication hearing," Morgan said. "I believe his behavior is something that's controllable. ... We anticipate doing exactly what we did with Barzee."

Mitchell's estranged wife and co-defendant Wanda Barzee was also found twice to be incompetent to stand trial and ordered by Atherton to be forcibly medicated. Her defense appealed the decision to the Utah Supreme Court, which has taken the case under advisement.

The next court date for Mitchell was scheduled for Jan. 12. At that time, a date is expected to be set for a so-called Sell hearing, named after the 2003 case Sell v. United States, in which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for involuntary medication if four criteria were met: there is important government interest at stake; the involuntary medication will significantly further those important governmental interests; it is necessary to further the state's interest; and it is medically appropriate.

Barzee's Sell hearing was the first ever in Utah.

At the defense's request, Atherton agreed that Mitchell's appearance in January could be waived.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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