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Competency hearing begins in Smart case

/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal court hearing to determine if the man charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart is mentally competent to stand trial began Monday with testimony from an expert on religious texts.

Daniel Peterson, a Brigham Young University professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, said a manifesto by defendant Brian David Mitchell, 56, showed he has a deep understanding of scripture.

"It's quite well done," Peterson said. "It's astonishing how many references there are to previously canonized scripture. ... It's an impressive production in a certain sense."

In response, the defense showed a video clip of an interview that Mitchell's now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, had with a psychiatrist.

Sings during court appearances
In it, she said Mitchell did not have research material to work from for his writings and told her his writing was based on revelations he received at night.

Mitchell was removed from the courtroom after singing Christmas carols, including "Silent Night," for more than 10 minutes. Mitchell usually sings during court appearances and is quickly removed.

He was taken to another room in the courthouse where he could see and hear the proceedings.

Elizabeth Smart's parents, Ed and Lois Smart, attended the hearing.

Elizabeth Smart, now 22, gave her testimony in October, saying she was raped after a marriage ceremony staged by Mitchell.

Smart is preparing to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Paris and did not attend Monday's hearing.

A ruling from Judge Dale Kimball was not immediately expected after the anticipated 10-day hearing in U.S. District Court. The decision will determine how the case moves forward — either to a trial or toward treatment that could restore Mitchell's competency.

Federal prosecutors contend the former street preacher is competent.

Victim was 14 when abducted
Mitchell's federal public defenders counter that Mitchell is unable to defend himself against charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor.

They also have said evidence of the rare delusional disorder he's been diagnosed with can be found in his religious ramblings and writings, including the 27-page manifesto, "The Book of Emmanuel David Isaiah."

The tract outlines Mitchell's own brand of religion, a mix of early Mormon theology and teachings from New Age writers.

Smart was 14 on June 5, 2002, when she was taken from her home at knifepoint. She was found in March 2003 after motorists saw her walking a suburban street with Mitchell and Barzee.

Barzee has pleaded guilty to kidnapping as part of a plea deal that calls for her to cooperate with authorities.