Dr. Michael Welner Describes Evaluating Elizabeth Smart's Kidnapper Brian David Mitchell


The court also just released the interview that the FBI did with him right after he was captured. What did you think when you saw that video? What did it tell you about Mitchell?

Here was Mitchell, after weeks of wandering homeless, without a good night's sleep, with erratic nutrition, on the receiving end of a forceful and very unpleasant interrogation from experienced law enforcement. And the interview clearly shows that it was actually Mitchell who took control of the interview.

Gradually, the experienced homicide detective and in particular the FBI agent lost their composure. Mitchell handled those charging bulls like a matador, with keen attentiveness to what information would reflect poorly on him legally, with behavioral and emotional discipline, fully relevant and aware in his factual responses. I was impressed with his intellectual agility and tactical thinking.

How had his demeanor changed from then to when you interviewed him in 2009?

Mitchell was far more relaxed with the interrogators and projected much more confidence about handling himself. In our interview, he would not even take the risk of making eye contact, let alone speak. But by the time of our meeting, he had the opportunity to take in the advice of attorneys and others. The lessons of both encounters reinforce for all the value of videotaping interviews, even when the examinee refuses to participate.

In addition to his forensic psychiatric evaluations of many of America's most complex cases, Dr. Welner is researching a standard for the worst of crimes, which invites participation of readers in the Depravity Scale, at www.depravityscale.org. He is also chairman of The Forensic Panel and an ABC News consultant.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...