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Hospital: Woman in Smart case can stand trial

A state court judge says the Utah State Hospital has determined that the woman charged in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is competent for trial.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A state court judge said the Utah State Hospital determined that the woman charged in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart was competent for trial.

The hospital's finding — provided in a report three days ago to Judge Judith Atherton — was announced in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court on Friday. It could mean the case of Wanda Eileen Barzee is headed toward trial, although Atherton first must rule Barzee competent.

Atherton set a Nov. 19 hearing to give Barzee's attorneys time to have their own experts review the hospital's findings.

If the defense disputes the findings, the court would hold another competency hearing.

Barzee has been receiving court-ordered psychiatric treatment since May 2008 after twice being deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Barzee, 63, and her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, 55, face charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated burglary for the June 2002 kidnapping of Smart in Salt Lake City.

Barzee appeared in court Friday — looking healthy, her gray hair cropped short — but did not speak.

But in an August letter written to her mother, Dora Corbett, Barzee said that based on her own conversation with a doctor and a social worker, she expected she would be deemed competent.

"Needless to say how nervous I am," Barzee wrote in the letter, one of a dozen Corbett provided to The Associated Press last month.

Barzee had long refused medication for religious reasons. In 2006, Atherton ruled Barzee should be forcibly medicated, and the Utah Supreme Court upheld the ruling in late 2007. Attorneys for Barzee appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court but were denied a review in May 2008 and Utah State Hospital doctors began forced treatment.

Barzee and Mitchell face charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary in the state courts. A federal grand jury also has indicted the two on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor.

A self-proclaimed religious prophet, Mitchell also has been ruled incompetent for trial. Last year, Atherton refused to order forced medication, saying she was not convinced that anti-psychotic medications would restore Mitchell's competency.

Mitchell faces a Nov. 30 competency hearing in the federal case.

Smart was 14 in 2002 when she was taken from her bedroom at knifepoint and led off to a mountainside camp above Salt Lake City. In federal court testimony Oct. 1, Smart said Mitchell raped her daily over the nine months she was held captive. She also said Mitchell used religion as a ruse to get what he wanted, but never appeared to be spiritual or close to God.