SALT LAKE CITY — A visibly upset Elizabeth Smart stormed out of the courtroom Wednesday after a witness testified that she had picked out a name for a baby should she become pregnant during the time she was kidnapped.
The topic of the testimony was something that had not been discussed in any previous court hearings for Brian David Mitchell, who is on trial for kidnapping and raping Smart.
Dr. Paul Whitehead, the clinical director of the forensic unit at the Utah State Hospital, was referring to information he'd gathered from several sources including the journal of Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee. He said part of Mitchell's mission, or part of his delusional thoughts, could have been for reproduction.
Whitehead said Smart was chastised during the nine months of her abduction for not wanting to have children. Mitchell apparently talked to Smart about being reunited with her parents in 10 years time and introducing them to a 10-year-old son or daughter.
"Mitchell was talking to Miss Smart about having babies to the point that Smart actually picked out a name if that happened," Whitehead testified.
It was at that point when Smart stood up and with heavy steps, walked briskly out of the courtroom and did not return until after the regularly scheduled morning break about 25 minutes later. Her mother, Lois Smart, followed her outside.
A couple of hours later, after Whitehead ended his testimony and court was adjourned for the day, Whitehead walked over to the Smart family in the courtroom in an apparent attempt to talk to them. He had just begun to say something to Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, when a still visibly angry Elizabeth Smart turned and said something to Whitehead, who immediately turned around and walked away.
Outside the federal courthouse, Whitehead declined to comment on what Smart said to him.
Whitehead was the only person who took the witness stand on Wednesday, a day after court was disrupted and canceled for the day when Mitchell suffered an apparent seizure. Mitchell was back in the courtroom Wednesday morning. No mention was made about Wednesday's incident.
Mitchell sang Christmas songs as he was led into the courtroom, continued to sing, and was removed from the room for refusing to stop singing as he has in numerous prior proceedings.
During his testimony Wednesday, Whitehead said he determined Mitchell had delusional disorder but was otherwise a high-functioning person. But he isn't nearly the master manipulator as prosecutors have portrayed him, he said.
The prosecution, during cross examination, tried to paint a picture of someone who wasn't all-consumed by his religion, who could avoid talking about subjects he didn't want to, and who overall was not mentally ill.
"I reasonably thought he had a major psychotic illness best described by delusional disorder," Whitehead testified.
The delusion was that Mitchell was "some sort of messenger, a prophet between God and mankind," whose job was to establish a new state of Zion, he testified. Whitehead said Mitchell tended to ramble and drift off topic when he was talking but eventually came back around to his original point, another possible symptom of a mental disorder.
"It's not so much the belief but what they're doing with the belief," Whitehead testified.
Mitchell often confused ordinary events as signs from God.
"I thought he routinely confused coincidence with confirmation that God is providing for him," Whitehead said.
But during cross examination, Whitehead admitted that Mitchell's delusions weren't rigid and that much of what goes into determining whether a person has delusional disorder is the evaluator's own judgment.
"I would never say 100 percent Mr. Mitchell had delusional disorder," Whitehead said, adding that the majority of the information he obtained about Mitchell most favors that diagnosis.
Delusions are based on the degree of conviction to a certain belief, Whitehead said. "His degree was more on a moderate level."
Whitehead said he and his partner rated Mitchell's conviction of his beliefs at a five or a seven on a 10 scale. Because he felt he needed to test his beliefs, it meant Mitchell's beliefs were less than 100 percent fixed, he said. Delusions tend to wax and wane in intensity relating to the time and place.
But Whitehead also testified at several points that he never felt that his staff was able to evaluate Mitchell to the fullest of their ability because they were never given permission to administer anti-psychotic medication, and Mitchell refused to take it on his own.
"I thought he needed anti-psychotic medication. We probably would have understood what this whole business was about," Whitehead said. "This was the first person we never really did the treatment I thought he needed. This is a new thing for me."
Whitehead said at least three other "board certified forensic types" he talked to concurred with his diagnosis of delusional disorder.
In further explaining how he reached his conclusion of delusional disorder, Whitehead said he questioned why a person would start committing felony sex crimes at age 50. He acknowledged there had been allegations of prior sexual misconduct from Mitchell's second wife. But if Mitchell had been getting away with child sex abuse in the past, it didn't make sense for him to commit a crime that was much more high risk for being caught, he said.
It was at that point during Whitehead's testimony that Ed Smart got up and left the courtroom.
Moments later, Whitehead talked about how reproduction may have been one of Mitchell's motives as he may have had a delusion about bringing up a new race of people, though he noted he wasn't positive about that. When Whitehead mentioned that Elizabeth Smart had a name picked out for her baby should she become impregnated, she angrily walked out.
During cross examination, the government reminded the jury that Barzee, whose journal was one of the main sources for the baby information, was by all accounts mentally ill at the time of Smart's abduction. In addition, parts of Barzee's journal have already been proven to be inaccurate.
Prosecutors further brought up three situations in which Mitchell had "revelations" that included sexual abuse but had nothing to do with procreation.
Whitehead said he "relied heavily" on Barzee's journals for information into diagnosing Mitchell.
He described Mitchell and Barzee as a "toxic" couple together who enabled each other's mental illnesses. But Whitehead did not believe Barzee was as much of a "pushover" as has been described in previous testimony.
Whitehead described Mitchell and Barzee's union as a "gathering storm" and a "slow warming of events that began in the early '90s" and culminated with Smart's abduction.
"Delusions don't happen overnight. They evolve over time," he said.
Much of Mitchell's actions and line of thinking didn't make sense, he said. He said the kidnapping was a high-risk crime with a low likelihood of success. Furthermore, Whitehead disputed earlier claims of Mitchell being a good manipulator.
"I wasn't impressed personally with his alibis," Whitehead said, referring to Mitchell's previous encounters with police officers and his ability to talk his way out of getting into trouble.
"He has this 100-mph fastball with religion, but if you don't swing at it, he misses. His fastball is rarely over the plate, anyway," Whitehead said. "He doesn't have any other pitches.
"I know he's seemed to be this master manipulator. I'm just not seeing it on the police reports," he said. "He's not able to put up this smoke screen or lie his way out of a situation (like when he's heavily confronted)."
Whitehead said he kept notes on the side in addition to the ones he put in Mitchell's chart while he was at the Utah State Hospital. The thought was that if Mitchell had ever requested to see his charts, he might take note of what observations had been made about him and try to adjust his mannerisms in an effort to be manipulative.
"He obviously (couldn't have) cared less what we were charting. He seemed indifferent to anything we were looking at. He never knew what we thought or what our opinion was," he said.
During his three years at the hospital from 2005 to 2008, Whitehead said he never saw Mitchell show martyr tendencies.
"He was the easiest patient I've ever had to manage," Whitehead said.
Prosecutors brought up how Mitchell's beliefs changed over the three years he was at the Utah State Hospital. When he first arrived, he thought the TV was evil. By the end, however, "Charmed," a show about witches typically in revealing outfits, was his favorite show.
"If that's the biggest headache in the course of my day is Brian Mitchell watching 'Charmed,' that's a good day," Whitehead said. "I didn't put much into the whole 'Charmed' thing."
At several points during Whitehead's testimony, questions were asked about a man, convicted of child rape, who was transferred from the Utah State Prison to the Utah State Hospital for three months for treatment. Whitehead described that man's ideas as more extreme that Mitchell's.
He feared a clash between Mitchell and the other man, comparing the situation to two dogs fighting over a single bone. Instead, Mitchell became the man's student, doing just about anything the man would say, and went through radical personality changes at that time.
Questions were also raised Wednesday about extreme religious beliefs versus delusions — for example, if terrorists who commit suicide bombings in the name of religions are mentally ill.
Whitehead said at the beginning of his testimony he did not consider himself an advocate or an apologist. He said he gets "queasy" every time he reads the police reports of what happened to Smart, comparing it to a horror movie.72 comments on this story
"Somehow each time I hope it evolves differently in terms of what happened to Miss Smart," he said.
But in observing Mitchell, he said he needed to keep his personal feelings and professional opinions separate.
Dr. Richart DeMier, who examined Mitchell at the federal prison in Springfield, Mo., when Mitchell was first transferred into federal custody and an initial competency evaluation was ordered, was expected to be the defense's final witness Thursday. Prosecutors were then expected to start calling rebuttal witnesses by Thursday afternoon.