Brian David Mitchell
|Brian David Mitchell|
October 18, 1953 |
Salt Lake City, Utah
|Other names||Peter Shoulson
Known to accomplice and
|Occupation||Beggar, formerly die cutter, jeweler, and salesman of alternative medical treatments|
|Criminal charge||Utah (state court):
Kidnapping, two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of aggravated burglary, conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping
U.S. (Federal court):
|Criminal penalty||Life Sentence|
|Criminal status||Held in Federal Prison in Tucson, Arizona, Federal inmate No. 15815-081|
|Spouse(s)||Wanda Barzee, 2 previous divorces|
|Children||4 biological, 9 stepchildren|
|Conviction(s)||Guilty of one count of kidnapping and one count of illegally transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes|
Brian David Mitchell (born October 18, 1953) is an American former street preacher convicted in United States Federal District Court in Utah for the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping following six years in psychiatric custody. He was sentenced to life in prison on May 25, 2011.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Allegations of pedophilia
- 3 Third marriage and diversion into religious idiosyncrasy
- 4 Competency hearings and conflicting medical opinions
- 5 Mitchell 2010 federal court trial
- 6 Sentencing and other post-conviction developments
- 7 Portrayal in film
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Mitchell was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was the third of six children born into a strict household of mainstream Mormons. According to family members Mitchell's paternal grandfather suffered from mental illness and was hospitalized for a time at the Utah State Hospital as a mental patient. Mitchell's immediate family—his parents and siblings—were described by neighbors as friendly and mainstream Mormons but a bit odd; Mitchell's father Shirl claimed he heard a voice telling him, "You are Christ" when he (Shirl) was seven years old but said he never heard such a voice again. His parents would later divorce. In 1997 Shirl Mitchell published a lengthy tome of his theologically tinged personal philosophy titled Spokesman for the Infant God or Goddess. 
Allegations of pedophilia
Prosecutors said that Mitchell was arrested at age 16 for allegedly exposing himself to an 8-year-old girl. Mitchell's second wife filed a police report in 1985 alleging that Mitchell molested two of their children, but he was not charged. Mitchell's stepdaughter stated that she was repeatedly sexually abused by Mitchell who manipulated her into remaining silent. Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner would later testify that Mitchell had a history of pedophilia and that he had stalked other teenaged girls in the Salt Lake City area prior to and after the Smart kidnapping.
Third marriage and diversion into religious idiosyncrasy
Mitchell's second divorce was finalized in 1985. He married Wanda Barzee the same day. Mitchell believed himself the fore-ordained angel born on earth to be the Davidic "servant" prepared by God as a type of Messiah who would restore the divinely led kingdom of Israel to the world in preparation for Christ's second coming. (Mitchell's belief in such an end-times figure – also known among many fundamentalist Latter Day Saints as "the One Mighty and Strong" – appeared to be based in part on a reading of the biblical book of Isaiah by the independent Latter Day Saint Hebraist, Avraham Gileadi, with which Mitchell became familiar from his former participation with Stirling Allan's American Study Group.)
As Immanuel, Mitchell wrote a two-part text which he claimed were Revelations from God, called the "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah" (I & II). The first of these revelations, completed in April 2002, included instructions for Mitchell to marry seven more wives; God's chastisement of members for rejecting the Book of Mormon and especially the words of Ezra Taft Benson; for loving money and seeking the praise of the world; for ignoring the poor and needy; for failing to testify against secret combinations; and for turning to doctors to cure illness instead of relying on faith, herbs, and fruits.
According to testimony given by his wife, Wanda Barzee, to avoid church discipline and likely excommunication from the LDS Church he kept these revelations secret, sharing them only with family and a few close acquaintances. But they eventually reached local church officials who then excommunicated Mitchell and Barzee in absentia in June 2002, the same month Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, specifically "for activity promoting bizarre teachings and lifestyle far afield from the principles and doctrines of the Church". Mitchell was also accused at the time of having pornographic pictures of young girls raising further suspicions of pedophilia amongst LDS Church members, but it was not included in his Church disciplinary council process.
According to Daniel Petersen, a scholar of religion, including Mormon studies, Mitchell's revelations were "logical," falling within the traditions of breakaway Mormon groups. The name Mitchell/Immanuel gave his proposed group was the Church of Jesus Christ and the Sanctified and the Last Days. As later described by psychologist Richard DeMier, these revelations said Mitchell would at one point come to battle the Anti-Christ, with Barzee becoming the "Mother of Zion," with her being able to conceive a male child, despite her having had a hysterectomy, which future child would in turn become the Davidic king in his own right. Later, forensic investigator Richard Forbes characterized Mitchell's behaviors and writings as controlling, similar in this manner to those engaged in by other criminals Forbes had researched such as Ervil LeBaron and Charles Manson.
Soon Mitchell came to be frequently seen wearing robes around Salt Lake City and begging for money, something he called "ministering to unbelievers". Then, in following the revelations, he came to approach women to voluntarily become polygamists wives with him and Barzee, but was unsuccessful. The first was a single mother in Salt Lake City and the second was Julia Atkinson, approximately 21 years of age, a young woman who had formerly been a member of the Kingston polygamist clan in Davis County, Utah. Being unsuccessful in both attempts, Mitchell then received a new revelation in which, according to testimony from Barzee, he was commanded to forcibly take Mormon girls between the ages of 10 and 14 to become his polygamists wives. This new revelation was then supplemented by another one where he was commanded to forcibly take a 14-year-old to become his first polygamist wife, of a total of 350 wives (seven times seven wives plus one, again times seven) that the revelation told Mitchell to take. He then kidnapped Elizabeth Smart from her home at knife point around 2 a.m. Later he would unsuccessfully attempt to kidnap Olivia Wright, a cousin of Elizabeth Smart, for which he was indicted in Utah on aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping charges. Later he also attempted to kidnap a 12-year-old girl near San Diego, California, but was unsuccessful. After this second failed kidnapping attempt Mitchell would claim that the Lord revealed that they were not yet ready to receive more wives.
For more details on Mitchell's kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart see Elizabeth Smart kidnapping.
Competency hearings and conflicting medical opinions
The issues surrounding Mitchell's competence to stand trial revolved around his revelations and whether if following them made him incompetent and/or insane. In the federal trial his insanity defense was based on his propensity to receive revelations from God, as he claims, and then to act out according to what he is told by those revelations, something which met the standard for an insanity defense according to his lawyers. However other people, especially Elizabeth Smart and Wanda Barzee as well as other lay witnesses, testified that Mitchell used these so-called revelations only to manipulate others and for self gratification.
Utah State Competency Hearing
Mitchell was declared incompetent to stand trial by Salt Lake City District Judge Judy Atherton on July 26, 2005, who ordered he be retained until he becomes competent to stand trial. The ruling was based mainly on a report from Dr. Jennifer Skeem, who concluded that Mitchell to be a delusional paranoid schizophrenic with little grasp of reality who could not rationally assist counsel in preparing a defense nor did he understand the legal proceedings against him. Judge Atherton rejected forced medication to treat Mitchell due to the reported low probability of a positive outcome. Mitchell was committed to a psychiatric prison hospital in Provo, Utah. He was again found "incompetent to stand trial" on December 18, 2006. A third finding of Mitchell being currently incompetent to stand trial was made by Judge Atherton on October 9, 2008.
Federal District Court Competency Hearing
On October 10, 2008 US District Attorney Brett Tolman commenced federal proceedings to prove Mitchell's competency to stand trial before the statutes of limitations expired for a federal kidnapping case. His strategy was based on both expert witness testimony, mainly from New York forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and chairman of The Forensic Panel, plus many lay witnesses including Elizabeth Smart and staffers who attended to Mitchell in the State Hospital. The hearing commenced in October 2009, with Smart giving early testimony, and continued throughout November and December 2009.
The mental health professionals who found Mitchell incompetent include: Richart DeMier, a court appointed forensic psychologist from the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, who said Mitchell was not making rational decisions about his criminal defense and specifically "If he believes he's going to be miraculously delivered from prison by God in two years time, that's not a rational thought process,". He concluded that Mitchell is a paranoid schizophrenic who is incompetent partly due to Mitchell's belief "that he is divinely ordained to fulfill a special role at the end of the world, putting himself on par with Jesus or God"; forensic psychologist Stephen Golding, who concluded Mitchell to have a delusional disorder with deviant sexual behavior and paranoia; and Jennifer Skeem, a psychology professor from the University of California-Irvine who found Mitchell incompetent to stand trial for the Utah state process in 2004, finding that he has a rare delusional disorder. She wrote in her 2004 report for Judge Atherton that Mitchell believes that "he would be held in jail for seven years until a day of judgment when he would be rescued by God and reunited with Smart and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Barzee" which would be during 2010, counting from the time of Mitchell's arrest.
Michael Welner, a psychiatrist from New York City, found Mitchell competent to stand trial, finding that he suffers from a range of disorders, including pedophilia, anti-social and narcissistic personality disorders, but that he was not psychotic nor delusional. Dr Welner was critical of other mental health professionals who did not research the level of acceptance and the roles played by revelations, prophets and prophesies in religions of the Latter Day Saints movements or Mormonism which Mitchell was a part of. His conclusions included the fact that Mitchell can control situations and that "Lust trumped religion" for Mitchell He also noted that Mitchell is used to operating in a parallel world of concealment and obfuscation just as most polygamist breakaway groups from the modern LDS church do. In his conclusions, he also compared Mitchell's behavior to that of pedophile Catholic priests who "routinely and dramatically distort their relationship with God" to justify their sexual acts.
In this third competency hearing, this time before Judge Dale Kimball of the U.S. Federal Court for the District of Utah, Mitchell was found competent to stand trial on March 1, 2010, with Kimball's describing Mitchell as an "effectively misleading psychopath" who has manipulated people into thinking him incompetent.
Mitchell 2010 federal court trial
Mitchell's criminal trial on federal kidnapping charges began on November 8, 2010. The jury ended up deliberating for only about five hours, a relatively short time given the amount of evidence they needed to cover. The jury rejected the insanity plea and returned guilty verdicts on both counts early on Friday 10 December 2010.
Sentencing and other post-conviction developments
Robert Steele, Mitchell's defense attorney, filed a motion on May 17, 2011, seeking to have Mitchell placed in a mental health facility and not in prison after sentencing. The motion failed and Mitchell was transported to Federal Prison on August 30, 2011. On May 25, 2011 Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his crimes.
On June 27, 2011, the Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill filed a motion to dismiss the six state felony counts against Mitchell in connection with both his kidnapping of Smart and attempted kidnapping of her cousin on the grounds that since his federal sentence was for life without parole there was no added punishment the state could inflict upon him.
Portrayal in film
In a 2003 made-for-TV film depicting the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, Mitchell was portrayed by actor Tom Everett.
- One Mighty and Strong
- List of sects in the Latter Day Saint movement
- Bride kidnapping
- Cases of children kept in captivity
- List of kidnappings
- McFarland, Sheena; Falk, Aaron (November 12, 2010). "Complete: Third day of Elizabeth Smart’s testimony". Salt Lake Tribune.
- "Elizabeth Smart and the 'prophet': kidnap case that gripped a nation goes to trial". Fairfax Media. November 1, 2010.
- Hunt, Stephen (November 17, 2010). "Mitchell’s father: Son’s ‘alienation’ began in womb". Salt Lake Tribune.
- Smart, Tom; Benson, Lee (April 1, 2006). In Plain Sight. Chicago Review Press. pp. 43–44.
- "Utah Local News - Salt Lake City News, Sports, Archive - The Salt Lake Tribune". Sltrib.com. 2011-05-23. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
- John-Charles Duffy. "The Making of Immanuel, Brian David Mitchell and the Mormon Fringe". Sunstone.
- Egan, Timothy (March 14, 2003). "In Plain Sight, a Kidnapped Girl Behind a Veil". New York Times.
- "Parents describe struggles during Brian David Mitchell's childhood". Deseret News. November 18, 2010.
- "Timeline of Elizabeth Smart's captivity". KSL Salt Lake City. October 1, 2009.
- "Brian David Mitchell stalked other girls, doctor says". Deseret News Utah. December 8, 2009.
- Duffy, John-Charles (October 15, 2003). "The Making of Immanuel: Brian David Mitchell and the Mormon Fringe". Sunstone magazine.
- Manson, Pamela; Neugebauer, Cimaron (December 3, 2010). "Mitchell defense rests in Smart kidnap case". Salt Lake Tribune. p. 6.
- "BYU prof says there's a logic to Mitchell's writings". The Salt Lake Tribune.
- "New Research Reveals Secrets About Psychology of Polygamous Sects and Their Leaders". ABC News Nightline. March 1, 2010.
- Lee Benson. In Plain Sight: The Startling Truth Behind the Elizabeth Smart Investigation. Chicago Review Press 2006.
- "Witnesses talk of Mitchell's religion, past during competency hearing". The Salt Lake Tribune.
- Manson, Pamela; Neugbauer, Cimaron (December 3, 2010). "Expert: Mitchell’s book shows ‘mainstream’ beliefs". Salt Lake Tribune.
- "Law enforcement officers testify to Mitchell's competency, Expert in religious extremism groups testifies". ksl.
- "U.S. Marshall testifies Mitchell's behavior different inside courtroom". KSL. December 6, 2010.
- "Witnesses talk of Mitchell's religion, past during competency hearing". KSL TV. December 1, 2009.
- "'He was a great deceiver,' Wanda Barzee says of her husband". Deseret News. November 19, 2010.
- "Smart's Alleged Kidnapper: Grim Portrait of a 'Righteous Man". Time. Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010.
- Carrier, Scott (December 2, 2010). "The One Mighty and Strong". Salt Lake City Weekly.
- "Elizabeth Smart recounts Mitchell's 'sex, porn revelations". Deseret News. November 9, 2010.
- "Smart's accused captor Insane, or a calculating 'deceiver'?". CNN. November 21, 2010.
- "New twist to Mitchell's federal competency hearing: Non-experts testify: Lay witnesses describe a man who is cunning, not crazy.". Retrieved 2010-11-14.
- Deseret News, June 29, 2011
- "Witness: Suspect in Smart case not faking illness". December 10, 2009.
- "Witness: Suspect in Smart case has disorder". December 8, 2009.
- "Smart case competency hearing begins second week". December 6, 2009.
- "Alleged Elizabeth Smart Captor Competent". CBS News. March 1, 2010.
- "New Research Reveals Secrets About Psychology of Polygamous Sects and Their Leaders". March 1, 2009.
- "Witness: Religion used to justify Smart kidnapping". December 7, 2009.
- "Smart kidnapping trial to begin Monday". KSL-TV. October 31, 2010.
- "Elizabeth Smart Thrilled Her Kidnapper Faces Life in Prison". Foxnews. December 10, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2011.
- Pat Reavy. "Attorneys want Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper sent to mental health facility instead of prison" in Deseret News, May 17, 2011
- Deseret News, May 25, 2011
- Pat Reavy. "Prosecutors Move to Drop State Charges Against Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper" in Deseret News, June 29, 2011
- "Federal Bureau of Prisons". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
- Book of Immanuel David Isaiah [I] – Hosted at DeseretNews.com
- Second Book of Immanuel David Isaiah – Hosted at SLTribune.com)
- The Making of Immanuel – John-Charles Duffy, Sunstone
- Elizabeth Smart Missing Child Profile at America's Most Wanted
- Brian Mitchell Profile at America's Most Wanted
- NPR's This American Life, episode #286: "MInd Games: The Invisible Girl" – Writer/narrater, Scott Carrier; producer, Ira Glass Note: Segment starts 43:30 minutes into podcast.