Accused Smart kidnapper’s wife to testify at trial

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One year after she pleaded guilty to kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, Wanda Eileen Barzee is expected to testify at the Salt Lake City trial of her estranged husband who is facing the same charge.Subpoenaed to testify by defense attorneys for defendant Brian David Mitchell, Barzee is expected to take the stand Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court.Mitchell, 57, is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. His trial is in its third week. If convicted, the former street preacher could spend the rest of his life in prison.Barzee, 65, pleaded guilty to the same charges in November 2009 and is serving a 15-year term at Carswell, a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is being treated for mental illness.At her federal sentencing, Barzee asked Smart for forgiveness and said that seven years after the June 5, 2002, kidnapping she finally understood it had been wrong.In her deal with prosecutors, Barzee agreed to cooperate with pending state and federal cases against her husband.The terms included testifying, but many observers expected that if she was called to the stand, it would be by prosecutors.Nothing in the plea agreement dictated which side might use Barzee as a witness, her attorney Scott Williams said.”There very well may be an advantage to the government by having her called by the defense,” Williams said. “Cross-examination provides more leeway for eliciting the points you want to make.”It’s not clear what defense attorneys will ask, but Williams said Barzee has “a lot of information about the defendant” and the circumstances that led to the charges.Mitchell’s attorneys haven’t disputed the facts of Smart’s abduction and captivity as they build his insanity defense. They contend he is mentally ill and believes he acted on commandments from God.Federal prosecutors maintain Mitchell is faking mental illness in order to avoid prosecution.Mitchell and Barzee were both twice deemed incompetent for trial in parallel state cases.Mitchell was diagnosed as delusional, and his case came to federal court after a state judge rejected a petition to have him forcibly medicated with anti-psychotic drugs.In 2006, Barzee was ordered to undergo forced medication at Utah State Hospital. Her competency status was restored after about 15 months of treatment – an event that precipitated her plea agreements in both state and federal court.In the state case, kidnapping and sexual assault charges against Barzee were dropped in exchange for a plea of guilty but mentally ill to a charge of conspiracy in the attempted abduction of Smart’s cousin, Olivia Wright, also in 2002.Williams said Barzee continues to receive treatment in prison.”Her mental health condition appears to be the same as it was when she was sentenced,” Williams said.Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped at knifepoint from the bedroom of her Salt Lake City home. She was recovered nine months later after being spotted walking a suburban street with Mitchell and Barzee.Now, 23, Smart has testified that she was forced to enter a polygamous marriage with Mitchell, endured near daily rapes, was forced to use drugs and alcohol and was taken against her will from Utah to California for about four months.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!