Elizabeth Smart & the Window to Kidnapper's Mental State


Elizabeth Smart & the Window to Kidnapper's Mental State

On Dr. Oz Program, Dr. Welner Details Evidence Impact, Empowerment Value of Victim Testimony


New York - It was an unforgettable kidnapping that became a precedent-setting legal saga. Elizabeth Smart, Lifetime, and A&E Television have collaborated on a recently released special, “I am Elizabeth Smart”. The autobiographical special provides Ms. Smart’s first-hand account of the ordeal she faced at the hands of Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.

The now married mother of two appeared on the Dr. Oz program to discuss her evolution as a victim advocate. Ms. Smart was joined by Dr. Michael Welner, forensic psychiatrist and Chairman of The Forensic Panel, whom federal prosecutors brought in to evaluate the case after Mitchell was repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial in state court. Mitchell had convinced numerous other highly qualified examiners he was delusional. On the show, Ms. Smart recounted how she was advised that the Utah state court was on the cusp of setting Mitchell on a release track as “permanently incompetent” but “not dangerous.”

The case transferred to the federal courts, and through closer scrutiny of over 200 sources over the next several months, Dr. Welner discovered and then demonstrated that Mitchell’s ideas paralleled the splinter sects of Latter Day Saints theology and were therefore not irrational and delusional. In his appearance on Dr. Oz, Dr. Welner noted how input from Ms. Smart and other witnesses helped to establish that Mitchell was not driven by his religious zeal, but by his pedophilia. Noted Dr. Welner,“His perversion trumped religion.” After Dr. Welner testified at a hearing, the court ruled Mitchell fit for trial. The Utah Federal District Court, in a lengthy written opinion on the controversy, credited Dr. Welner’s evaluation for introducing significant new evidence.

Prior to Dr. Welner’s interview of Ms. Smart, she had not been interviewed by any examiners or investigators over the course of the six years following her liberation from captivity. Yet her input was critical in illustrating Mitchell’s mental state during the nine months Mitchell held her captive. As Dr. Welner observed, “There is no more powerful evidence in the courtroom than the testimony of the person who has been through it… what you lived, where you lived it, when you lived it, when it started, how it happened. Because you brought truth alive.” 

 Mitchell was convicted after unsuccessfully claiming insanity, and was sentenced to life in prison. Dr. Welner applauded Ms. Smart’s perseverance through reliving the pain of her ordeal when they initially spoke, and noted that she ultimately came to realize, “when you stand in court and you confront the perpetrator, the person who victimized you, you have the power, they are silenced, and they must listen to you holding them accountable…she is not only renewed, rejuvenated, resilient…but she has power.”

To view the Dr. Oz program with Ms. Smart and Dr. Welner, click

To view the written evaluation by Dr. Welner and the District Court opinion, check out SPI's Facebook page.