The Utah Supreme Court told the state Monday to hold off on involuntarily medicating accused Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Wanda Barzee until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the case.
The state's high court ordered the stay on forcible medication to remain in place for now. Last week, both sides went before the court to argue their cases. Prosecutors argued the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court accepting the Barzee case was very minimal and waiting for a decision was simply another delay in a case that has already been bogged down for five years.
Defense attorneys Scott Williams and David Finlayson argued, however, that it had been "fairly routine throughout the history of the case to stay a decision that would have irreversible" impact while there was still an avenue of appeal open on the issue of forced medication.
The Utah Supreme Court ruled 4-1 to keep the stay in order to remain, "consistent with this Court's long-standing practice of permitting such stays routinely and as a matter of comity," the court said in its ruling. Associate Chief Justice Michael J. Wilkins was the lone dissenting vote.
"It makes sense," Finlayson said of the court's decision.
Williams and Finlayson also point out that a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court whether to accept their petition could come relatively quickly.
The state has until April 14 to file its response. After that, Finlayson said, a decision could come in just 30 days. If for some reason the U.S.. Supreme Court does not decide during its current session to hear the Barzee matter, Finlayson expects they'll consider it again in the fall.
In December, the Utah Supreme Court decided 3-2 that 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton was correct when she ruled the standards set in Sell vs. United States, which established the guidelines for forcible medication, had been met, meaning Barzee could be involuntarily medicated.
Her treatment was scheduled to begin March 11, but Williams and Finlayson filed an emergency request with the Utah Supreme Court asking for a stay.Barzee and her estranged husband, co-defendent Brian David Mitchell, are accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting Elizabeth Smart in 2002. Smart was missing for nine months before being found walking down a street with Barzee and Mitchell in south Salt Lake Valley.