SALT LAKE CITY - Brian David Mitchell, the man charged with snatching Elizabeth Smart nearly eight years ago, could finally face a jury after a federal judge ruled yesterday that Mitchell was faking mental illness and is competent to stand trial.
“The evidence proves that Mitchell has the capacity to assist his counsel in his defense and the ability to behave appropriately in the courtroom,’’ US District Judge Dale Kimball wrote in his 149-page ruling, issued in response to a 10-day hearing last year on Mitchell’s competency.
Lawyers for Mitchell said his hallmark disruptive singing in court was evidence he is mentally incompetent.
Kimball, however, called the outbreaks a “contrivance’’ used by the suspect to give the impression he cannot control his behavior. “Although the defense has suggested that Mitchell’s singing is a psychotic response to stress, Mitchell has repeatedly demonstrated that he has the capacity to be composed and in control, even in stressful situations,’’ the judge wrote.
Elizabeth Smart’s father, Ed, said he was thrilled Mitchell was found competent. “Because he is competent; he’s crazy like a fox,’’ Ed Smart said.
Mitchell’s federal public defender, Robert Steele, said an appeal wasn’t likely to succeed, and he was instead preparing for a trial later this year.
Kimball’s ruling set up a March 26 hearing to determine a trial date.
Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002. She was found nine months later walking a suburban Salt Lake City street with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Barzee.