Selected Court Cases

United States v. Brian David Mitchell

The accused Utah kidnapper of Mormon teenager Elizabeth Smart, who was missing for many months before being recovered, asserted that he was incompetent to stand trial in state court. After repeated findings of incompetency, the case was contemplated for dismissal. 


The Forensic Panel’s forensic psychiatrist was asked by federal prosecutors in Utah to review the case and to provide a definitive opinion regarding the complex distinction between extreme beliefs that render one incompetent for being psychotic and religious ideals of a fundamentalist willfully obstructing the wheels of justice. The case was complicated by the distinctive culture of his religious influences. Our investigation yielded input from numerous sources that illuminated a man very able at concealing his pedophilia, and our specialist’s diagnosis included malingering and psychopathy as well – but no major illness. 


The Forensic Panel specialist’s peer-reviewed efforts included the interview of more than fifty witnesses and memorable videotaped encounters with Mitchell and his co-defendant wife. These informed later court testimony. The Court ultimately issued a landmark written opinion with implications for the determination of competency in religious zealots and others who reject participation in the legal process. The District Court judge issued a decision finding Mitchell competent, in which he credited our specialist with introducing a significant amount of valuable new evidence. This also included critical data from interviews with Elizabeth Smart about her experiences with her captor, and the quality of his relatedness to his faith. Mitchell proceeded to trial and raised the insanity defense. The Forensic Panel’s specialist testified as the lead prosecution witness; the jury found Brian Mitchell David guilty. Mitchell subsequently waived all appeals. 


Read court decision on US. vs. Mitchell competency here

Read report on Brian David Mitchell (cleared for release) here