Hardly anyone, including me, is likely to lose any sleep over yesterday’s verdict
in federal court in Salt Lake City that found David Brian Mitchell
guilty of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart and transporting her across state
lines for purposes of sexual activity. And yet, it’s hard not to believe
that Mitchell is crazy as a bedbug–as in a paranoid schizophrenic
suffering under the delusion that God ordered him to acquire many wives
in order to be equipped to combat the Antichrist in the End Times. Peggy
Fletcher Stack, the Salt Lake Tribune‘s exemplary religion writer, has a long take-out
exploring the conundrum of distinguishing an inspired prophet from
someone who’s merely insane.The feds ended up trying Mitchell because a
state judge found him mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Maybe Mitchell was faking it, but pretty much everybody, including the Tribune editorial
applauding the verdict, thought he was crazy–just not crazy enough not
to deserve to be found guilty. For my part, I don’t think that, short
of spending all his time rolling on the floor and foaming at the mouth, a
man who did to a teenaged girl what Mitchell did to Smart was going to be able to avoid a guilty verdict, no matter what the clinical diagnosis was.