Crime Watch

updated 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Elizabeth Smart: Spared a Trial?

Those who know Wanda Barzee were hardly surprised when Salt Lake City Judge Judith Atherton ruled on Jan. 9 that she was incompetent to stand trial for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart and ordered her committed for 90 days. Barzee, 58, is "certifiably crazy," says one of her relatives. "Always has been." Notes Smart's father, Ed: "It goes along with what Elizabeth told us—that Wanda and her husband [the other accused abductor, Brian David Mitchell] were always ranting and raving and arguing. They're two of a kind."

Though prosecutor David Yocom believes that Barzee's commitment is a temporary setback—"with appropriate medication" she can quickly be judged competent, he says—the Smart family doesn't seem to mind the delay. "The further we get from all of this, the better off Elizabeth will be," says Ed.

In fact, her father says, the family would not be disappointed if Mitchell too were found incompetent and the case never came to trial, thus sparing 16-year-old Elizabeth the ordeal of having to testify (self-styled prophet Mitchell, 50, has a competency hearing scheduled for Jan. 27). "We'd just as soon they both end up at the state hospital," Ed says. "It's worse than jail."

Sizing Up Kobe
The heckling Kobe Bryant recently took from Denver Nuggets fans might seem welcoming compared with what awaits him when he returns to Colorado Jan. 23 for the next court date in his sexual-assault case. Not only will the judge hear arguments on whether the defense will be allowed to see his accuser's medical records (related to her two alleged suicide attempts); the prosecution has also requested to measure Bryant's hands. (The accuser claims Bryant encircled her neck with a single hand.) And that may be just the beginning. "It's shades of O.J. trying on the glove," says Craig Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor. "I think before this case is over, that's not all they'll be asking to measure."

Scott Peterson Wins a Round
Scott Peterson got a big, belated Christmas present when Judge Al Girolami ruled that he couldn't get a fair trial in Modesto, Calif. "I feel like a 500-lb. weight has been lifted from my shoulders," defense counsel Mark Geragos said after the Jan. 8 decision, which will likely send Peterson's trial for the murder of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son to one of three venues in the San Francisco Bay area. The most probable candidates would be Oakland or San Jose, according to lawyers close to the case. A Jan. 20 hearing in Modesto is scheduled to set the place and date of the trial (which could run 16 weeks or more), and jury selection is likely to begin in March. "Scott is someone likely to get the death penalty if he's convicted," says legal pundit Steve Cron, a Santa Monica defense attorney. "And if he were tried in Modesto, it was almost a slam dunk."

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