SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Lawyers are preparing for a key court hearing for the Utah man accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, legal analysts say.
The Monday hearing in federal court is meant to determine the competency of Brian David Mitchell to stand trial, and comes after his wife, Wanda Barzee, pleaded guilty to helping Mitchell kidnap and sexually assault the 14-year-old Smart in 2002, The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.
Elizabeth's father Ed Smart told the newspaper the mental competency hearing -- Mitchell's third since his 2003 arrest but his first in federal court -- is the most important court action so far in his daughter's case.
"I think this is the most important thing," he said. "Wanda (Barzee's plea bargain) was very significant and important. But Mitchell was absolutely at the very center of everything."
"I believe, to date, this is the most important crossroad in the case; I do," U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman told the Deseret News. "Everyone knows what our theory on the case is and our theory on competency. We have to now (convince) the judge our theory is accurate."
Prosecutors contend Mitchell has faked mental illness to avoid a lengthy prison sentence for Smart's abduction.