SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah State Hospital nurse on Monday said the man charged with the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart may be a religious zealot, but he is not mentally ill.
Leslie Miles told jurors on Monday that her conclusions came from watching the behavior of Brian David Mitchell over a period of months at the Provo hospital.
Miles, who has worked in psychiatric nursing for 28 years, said Mitchell was less strident in his beliefs than other patients with religious delusions that she has treated.
“I’ve met Jesus many times. I’ve met Allah, I’ve met Satan. I once had two Jesuses fighting over who was the real Jesus,” said Miles. “He didn’t fit what my experience has been. He seemed to give up religion. He wasn’t professing to be a prophet. His behavior wasn’t consistent with what the reports were that he was professing to be.”
Miles supervised the nursing staff at the hospital during Mitchell’s initial visit in 2003 and again when he returned in 2005. She said he was adept at getting his needs met and could be redirected from behaviors that were annoying to staff and other patients, such as singing hymns and communicating either through notes or gestures, instead of speaking.
“My own observation was that he did not have a mental illness that was impeding his abilities,” Miles said.
Mitchell is accused of kidnapping Smart at knifepoint when she was 14. He faces federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for the purposes of illegal sex. If he is convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Defense lawyers say he’s mentally ill and should not be held responsible for his crimes. The defense contends Mitchell believes he had been directed by God and ordained as a prophet who will play a divine role in saving the Mormon church at the end of the world.
Miles testified as a rebuttal witness for prosecutors, who say Mitchell is faking the illness. Her opinion was shared by a four other hospital staffers who testified Monday.
Those opinions differ from the hospital’s director of the forensic unit, Dr. Paul Whitehead, who diagnosed Mitchell with a delusional disorder.
In all, prosecutors called 10 witnesses to share personal experiences with Mitchell that paint him as a smart, calculating individual who used religion selectively to meet his own needs. Most said Mitchell never used archaic religious language when speaking, never identified himself as a prophet and never spontaneously broke into song — which he does daily in court before being removed to watch the proceedings on video from a holding cell.
Dennis Durando, the U.S. marshal tasked with escorting Mitchell from the Salt Lake County Jail to the federal courthouse daily, said he only hears Mitchell sing when he enters the courtroom.
Durando, who has spent close to 70 hours with Mitchell during the past year, said he also monitors Mitchell in the holding cell and that Mitchell sometimes watches the proceedings, but also exercises and naps, plugging his ears with tissue.
When Mitchell’s estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, testified two weeks go, Durando said Mitchell stood close to the television monitor and stared at the screen, listening intently.
The case was expected to be turned over to the jury by Friday.