North America - United States
Religious views do not make Mitchell incompetent, prosecutors say
By Pat Reavy ("Deseret News," September 29, 2009)
Salt Lake City, USA - Prosecutors preparing for self-proclaimed street preacher Brian David Mitchell's upcoming competency hearing in federal court say his religious views do not make him incompetent to stand trial.
The U.S. Attorney's Office filed a response this week to a motion by the defense to have expert testimony from Richard Forbes and Daniel Peterson, as well as writings by Ervil Lebaron, excluded during Mitchell's hearing, scheduled to begin Nov. 30.
Forbes is a former head investigator for the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office and was one of the lead people who worked the LeBaron case. Peterson is a religion professor at BYU.
In their response filed this week, prosecutors say they only plan to introduce a portion of LeBaron's "The Book of the New Covenant," as Forbes is expected to show similarities between Mitchell's writings and beliefs and LeBaron's.
LeBaron was the head of a polygamous cult believed to be responsible for murders in several states, including Utah.
Prosecutors also contend that defense expert witnesses used in Mitchell's state court competency hearing "seriously misjudged and misunderstood the content and context of (Mitchell's) religious thinking and writing," according to court documents.
They will argue that the defense's argument that other fringe groups may share "delusional beliefs" with Mitchell is unsupported.
"The very point of the testimony of Richard Forbes and Daniel Peterson is to demonstrate that Mitchell's religious expression is not 'bizarre' when viewed within context," according to court documents.
The U.S. Attorney's Office argued the testimony of Forbes and Peterson is relevant to put Mitchell's "religious thought and pretensions into a cultural and religious context," court documents state. Furthermore, Forbes will show "there is a culture explanation for Mitchell's views," while Peterson will "speak to the coherency of Mitchell's writings and the source material from which Mitchell's core religious statement, the Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, is drawn."
Court documents also give a glimpse into the government's key expert witness, Dr. Michael Welner, and his extensive report.
Welner is expected to testify that according to staff members at the Utah State Hospital, Mtichell was "unique among the patients in that he was extremely high functioning. He displayed a clear grasp of his legal situation. His choice of reading material reflected a breadth and depth of intellect. His choice of movies was generally very mainstream. His skill in chess and avoidance of clinical assessment demonstrated his tactical ability. His sense of humor and insight into his legal predicament were manifest. His success at avoiding apprehension was remarkable."
Thursday, Elizabeth Smart will be the first witness to testify in Mitchell's competency hearing. It will also mark the first time Smart has seen Mitchell since she was rescued in 2003.