Prosecution's last witness takes stand in Brian David Mitchell trial

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 8 2010 6:00 a.m. MST

Michael Welner briefly talks to the media after testifying in the Brian David Mitchell trail.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The prosecution's key expert witness in the trial of Brian David Mitchell, accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, does not believe the former street preacher's alleged religious beliefs are sincere and he is not mentally ill.

Dr. Michael Welner methodically went over example after example in explaining why he believed Mitchell was a pedophile, and why he evaluated him as having anti-social personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. None of those traits are classified as a severe mental illness.

Welner was on the witness stand for the majority of the day Wednesday. Court was held over by three hours past its normal stopping time, but attorneys were unable to complete their questioning. Welner will return to the stand Thursday morning for more cross-examination and possible rebuttal questioning.

Prosecutors are then expected to rest and the defense may call at least one more rebuttal witness of their own. U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball told the jury that they may be hearing closing arguments and receiving jury instructions by Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

During his testimony Wednesday, Welner pointed out numerous examples of Mitchell not living by his alleged religious credo. He said that was key in forming an opinion on Mitchell.

"That's part of the question, what does Brian David Mitchell really believe?" he said.

A delusion is a fixed false belief, Welner said. But Mitchell's beliefs were not fixed, and Mitchell didn't really believe them himself.

His revelations, for example, were frequently altered or abandoned, he said.

"Tests of faith would result in the abandonment of faith," Welner said. "If the revelations are abandoned for convenience, for profit, then the revelations themselves are not sincere."

In one example, Welner noted that Mitchell's reasoning for taking Smart had changed depending on who he was telling the story to and in what context.

"The evidence demonstrates that Brian David Mitchell's account of the kidnapping has changed in several ways. He has represented that Elizabeth came voluntarily. At the same time he presented to Wanda that she had to be taken by force."

Mitchell claimed to have a revelation to take a 14-year-old girl, but when the FBI questioned Mitchell about Smart's age, he told them she was 18 in God's eyes, Welner said.

Twice when trying to avoid detection from police, Mitchell either hid in nearby bushes or threatened Smart to be quiet rather than relying on faith to allow them to go undetected.

"A number of different aspects of his life spoke to insincerity of his faith," he said. "There is ample evidence of revelations either changing or being abandoned."

Another example Welner gave was that Mitchell claimed to have a revelation from God that he and Wanda Barzee should wear robes. Yet after 9/11, Mitchell decided himself to stop wearing the robes out of fear of being viewed as a terrorist.

Even though in Mitchell's religious beliefs he spoke of a corrupt world and how the LDS Church had been corrupted, "There is no component of his life that is devoted to kindness," Welner noted.

"His life is remarkably baron as it relates to acts of kindness as opposed to acts of taking and taking from others and entitlement."

The beliefs that Mitchell professed to have were similar to those by any other fundamentalist LDS sect, he said.

"The cultural context is such that if Brian David Mitchell is considered delusional then we would have to consider the entire community of fundamentalist LDS delusional," Welner said.

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