The legal battle over whether accused Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Wanda Barzee can be forcibly medicated is preparing to enter another round.
But prosecutors are hoping this latest struggle doesn't drag on as long as previous issues regarding her competency.
Tuesday afternoon, the Utah Supreme Court issued a stay on 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton's involuntary medication order just hours after Barzee's attorneys filed an emergency request.
The state, which is represented by the Utah Attorney General's Office in the appellate court, said Wednesday that it expected to have its response filed with the court by Friday.
The latest tug-of-war started in December when the state's high court ruled 3-2 that Atherton was correct when she decided Barzee met the standard to involuntarily be given anti-psychotic medication in an attempt to restore her competency so she can stand trial on aggravated kidnapping and assault charges.
In February, Atherton signed the order for forced medication to begin immediately. Doctors at the Utah State Hospital held off, however, knowing that Barzee's attorneys would request a stay while they appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Late Friday, Atherton denied the stay. Hospital administrators were prepared to begin the treatment process Tuesday evening, according to prosecutors, when the Utah Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt.
Once the Utah Supreme Court receives the state's reply to the defense's request for a stay, the court can either hold a hearing or just issue a ruling. There is no set time table for the court to issue a decision.
Scott Williams, one of Barzee's attorneys, said his client's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was mailed Tuesday night and should reach the nation's top court by Wednesday. Prosecutors now have 30 days to file a reply to the appeal.
The U.S. Supreme Court receives on average 6,000 petitions a year requesting a hearing, said Assistant Attorney General Christine Soltas. But only about 100 of those cases are accepted.
Soltas said whether or not the Utah Supreme Court will allow the stay to continue until the U.S. Supreme Court question is answered, may depend on what arguments the defense makes in its petition.
But she said it was her belief that all legal questions surrounding the forced medication issue have already been answered in previous cases.
"The issue of involuntary medication was settled in the Sell decision," she said. "We believe the law itself is a well settled issue."Both Barzee and her estranged husband, co-defendant Brian David Mitchell, are accused of taking Smart from her Federal Heights home in 2002 and holding her hostage until the trio was found nine months later in Sandy. A decision on whether Mitchell qualified for involuntary medication was still pending Wednesday.