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Mitchell hearing to begin Aug. 31

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A judge Wednesday set a new date for a mental-competency hearing for accused Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Brian David Mitchell.

Third District Court Judge Judith Atherton set a three-day competency hearing beginning Aug. 31. She also set additional court dates leading up to the hearing.

Mitchell's defense team has until July 16 to submit to the court specific reasons why the competency hearing should be closed to the public and what information about Mitchell is sensitive. A court date was scheduled for Aug. 3 to decide what parts, if any, of the competency hearing should be closed.

Attorney Jeffrey Hunt, who represents the Deseret Morning News, KSL, The Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists, said Wednesday he expected very little of the upcoming hearings to be closed.

The Mitchell case had been on hold since April when Mitchell's attorneys asked the Utah Supreme Court if they could appeal Atherton's ruling allowing the media to act as intervenors.

Last week the state's high court denied the request to hear the appeal.

Members of Mitchell's defense team didn't have any comment outside the courtroom Wednesday.

Mitchell, 50, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 58, are accused of kidnapping and assaulting Smart June 5, 2002. The three were found together March 12, 2003, in Sandy. Barzee was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in January and ordered to receive treatment at the Utah State Hospital. A review on her status was scheduled for June 28.

Two doctors assigned to evaluate Mitchell have split on his competency.