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Defense witness in Brian David Mitchell competency case goes on offensive

She believed in 2004 that he wasn't capable of aiding in his defense

Published: Friday, Dec. 11 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Based on the definition outlined in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders, DeMier said that because he found Mitchell's delusions to be "bizarre," he declared Mitchell to have schizophrenia based on the criteria.

In his report, DeMier said Mitchell "is preoccupied with these well-entrenched beliefs, they appear to have caused him significant distress, and they have led to a drastic decline in his ability to function effectively in society."

During cross examination, assistant U.S. attorney Diana Hagan brought up the argument that the notion of being the "one mighty and strong" is a common belief among many fundamentalist groups, and having personal revelations from God was a common part of mainstream LDS culture. Even Mitchell's contention that he was the "hand of God" was a direct quote taken from the Book of Mormon.

DeMier acknowledged that cultural context had to be taken into consideration when deciding whether a belief is bizarre or not.

Several video clips of DeMier's interview with Mitchell in 2008 were shown in court Thursday. During one exchange, Mitchell talks coherently and rationally about the legal proceedings against him, seeming to show an understanding of why he was at the federal facility.

Hagan tried to establish an argument that Mitchell was actually trying to obstruct interviews with DeMier by not being cooperative. During portions of the interview, Mitchell spoke in religious speak, using phrases such as "it mattereth not" several times.

At one point, Mitchell tells DeMier, "I understand you have your work to do, and I have my work to do. Our work doesn't mix, like wine and water."

DeMier said he does not believe Mitchell is malingering, or faking an illness to avoid prosecution, adding that most patients who malinger try to exhibit symptoms not consistent with the illness they're trying to fake.

For example, some patients will claim to see little green men in their rooms, he said. Mitchell's delusions, on the other hand, are consistent with schizophrenic delusions.

Furthermore, DeMier said Mitchell "abhors the thought of (being found incompetent). It's something he can't accept."

In illustrating some of Mitchell's delusions, DeMier said that while at the Utah State Hospital, Mitchell asked staff members about the conversion rate of shekels to U.S. currency in order to pay Ed Smart for his daughter.

DeMier also testified that people who have delusional beliefs don't have to talk about such beliefs all the time. "That doesn't mean they think about it every single minute," he said, adding that a person can act normally in every way until they "trip that trigger to talk about their delusional beliefs."

Hagan countered with a couple of incidents, including the time Mitchell was in Virl Kemp's home in San Diego in 2003 and talked religion at length with him, but acted as a person investigating the church. Mitchell later allegedly returned to Kemp's home in the middle of the night in a failed kidnap attempt of his daughter.

Mitchell has not been seen in the courtroom since the third day of the hearing. He has been transported to the federal courthouse each day of the hearing but has refused to come out of his holding cell. Court proceedings, however, are broadcast into his cell.Skeem testified Thursday that she looked in on Mitchell and found that he had chewed up a napkin, stuck pieces of it in his ears and was turned away from the video screen of the proceedings. She said that was in contrast to earlier testimony from lay prosecution witnesses that Mitchell traditionally acted normally after being removed from the courtroom.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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