Psychologist says Brian David Mitchell has schizophrenia

Doctor doesn't think he's competent to stand trial at this time

Published: Thursday, Dec. 10 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

A clinical psychologist who evaluated Brian David Mitchell at the U.S. Medical Center in Springfield, Mo., does not believe the man accused of kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart is currently competent to stand trial.

Dr. Richart DeMier has worked for 15 years at the federal facility where prisoners are sent for mental evaluations. He diagnosed Mitchell with paranoid schizophrenia. But he noted that a mental disorder alone does not determine competency.

The reasons Mitchell is "not competent to proceed at this time" are because he does not have a rational understanding of the court proceedings and he cannot assist rationally in his defense, DeMier said.

Mitchell does have a factual understanding of the proceedings and has the "nuts and bolts of competency," De Mier said. But he's not "making decisions based on rational information."

For example, Mitchell believes that if he is convicted and sent to prison, he will be delivered out of prison by God in two years, said DeMier. In reality, if convicted, Mitchell will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

DeMier was one of three expert witnesses who took the stand Wednesday during the eighth day of Mitchell's federal competency hearing.

Mitchell's attending physician at the Utah State Hospital, Dr. Paul Whitehead, has not issued an opinion as to whether Mitchell is competent to stand trial. But he painted a much different picture of the former street preacher than previous witnesses for the government have during the past week. Whitehead did not find Mitchell to be as clever or manipulative as others have, instead using words such as "naive" and "inept" to describe Mitchell and some of his behavior.

Whitehead diagnosed Mitchell as having a delusional disorder complicated by substance abuse. He noted that a person could have a delusional disorder and still be competent. Whitehead based part of his diagnosis on Mitchell's family history, which includes signs of psychosis.

Whitehead raised a prosecution example that Mitchell used manipulation to trade or barter items for things he wanted at the state hospital, such as dental floss or books. "Many of our mentally retarded (patients) can manipulate better than that," Whitehead said of Mitchell's abilities. "He had occasion to be far more manipulative than he was."

Whitehead also disagreed with prosecutors' portrayal of Mitchell as a cunning person who was able to avoid being arrested, despite being confronted by police on at least four different occasions during the nine-month period when Smart was missing. He said an intelligent person would not draw so much attention to himself by walking around downtown Salt Lake City in religious garb with two veiled women at his side.

"I saw him as naive, especially as someone trying to stay below the radar as a pedophile," Whitehead said.

While Mitchell spoke in religious terms during much of the time he was at the hospital, Whitehead said he found his language hard to follow.

"I don't know if he can get it to make sense to other people," he said. "If he speaks for any length of time, it's not going to make sense to people."

Whitehead had similar skepticism of Mitchell's "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah."

"I was surprised he could put things together that well," said Whitehead, adding that he believed much of the book was plagiarism. "I don't think Mr. Mitchell has the capacity to put something together that sophisticated."

Whitehead believed it was for that reason that Mitchell was unable to influence many other people to join his sect.

"He's like a pitcher in the game. He's in the wind up, has an arm, but he's throwing the ball into the bleachers."

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