Psychiatrist: Suspected kidnapper not mentally ill

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah psychiatrist who once evaluated a street preacher charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart testified Tuesday that the defendant does not suffer from a mental disease or disorder. Dr. Noel Gardner said he disagreed with defense experts who have diagnosed suspect Brian David Mitchell with a rare delusional disorder and schizophrenia. Gardner, who first evaluated Mitchell in 2003, believes Mitchell is more properly diagnosed with an anti-social personality disorder and a narcissistic personality disorder. Those disorders are characterized by a disregard for the safety of others, a lack of remorse, a grandiose sense of self-importance and arrogant or haughty behavior. Neither of the personality disorders is considered a severe mental illness, Gardner said. On cross-examination, however, Gardner conceded that a narcissistic disorder could progress into a delusional disorder. He also acknowledged that delusional disorders are extremely rare and difficult to accurately diagnose because those who have them typically don’t seek treatment. Mitchell, 57, is charged in federal court with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of illegal sex. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. The case is expected to be turned over to a jury for deliberations by Friday. Mitchell’s attorneys have mounted an insanity defense. They don’t dispute that Smart was taken at knifepoint and held captive, but contend Mitchell is mentally ill and can’t be held responsible for the crimes. Prosecutors counter that Mitchell is faking mental illness and is a cunning manipulator. Gardner said he has identified a number of what he called religious personas – the intimidator, the humble penitent, the sadist, the clever magician and the religious chameleon – that provide proof of Mitchell’s cunning and manipulation skills. “He uses them sometimes to do impression management, to create a situation that makes it more likely that he’ll get what he wants,” Gardner said. “It is simply impossible, in my opinion, for somebody with a severe mental disease or defect to do this range of very clever, very successful, very situationally attuned presentation in ways that are consistently self-serving.” Gardner also said Mitchell’s religious ideas were not bizarre, but are culturally consistent with the “religious fringe,” including extremists with Mormon fundamentalist beliefs. Gardner said he also believes Mitchell was neither devout nor sincere. “He was using religion to exploit dependent other people for his own purposes,” said Gardner, who is both a doctor and an ordained minister. Gardner was one of two mental health experts who were court-ordered to evaluate Mitchell in 2003 in a parallel state court case. He concluded then that Mitchell was competent for trial. A state judge, however, said later that Mitchell was not competent for trial. The state case stalled over the competency question, prompting federal prosecutors to take over the case in 2008. Mitchell was deemed competent for his federal trial by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball earlier this year. Smart was 14 when she was take from her home. She was recovered on March 12, 2003, walking a suburban Salt Lake City street with Mitchell.

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!