SALT LAKE CITY — The trial of a woman accused of driving her SUV inside a building and breaking her husband’s legs ended in mistrial Friday after attorneys and the judge learned that jurors were spotted discussing the case outside of the courtroom.
Brenda Christine White is charged with attempted murder, a first-degree felony, and criminal mischief, a second-degree felony, in connection with the April 26, 2006, incident.
White was nearing the end of her trial, with just two witnesses and closing arguments expected before the jury was to receive the case.
Instead, court started Friday morning with defense attorneys buzzing over the claim, and court observers had to wait hours to learn of the decision 3rd District Judge William Barrett said he regretted to make.
“It’s nobody’s fault,” Barrett told the court. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance.”
Barrett said in court the jurors denied talking with each other about the case and his decision was made to be fair to both the defense and prosecution. He declined to give details of what was said.
A woman believed to be a friend of White’s informed attorneys she had heard the jurors making statements around the elevators that led her to believe they were discussing the case.
“I think he made the right decision because when you’ve got somebody on trial for such a serious crime, you have to make sure that person gets their day in court and they get a fair day in court,” defense attorney Jason Schatz said.
“It’s unexpected,” Jon White said of the decision in a statement through a victim’s advocate. “It doesn’t change what happened and we’ll continue moving forward.”
Thursday, White took the stand as her attorneys made what is being described as the “Xanax defense.” White said she took a handful of Xanax before driving into the building.
“Certainly it’s our position that the Xanax definitely had an impact on what happened that day,” Schatz said.
Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Alicia Cook said the defense wasn’t a surprise, since White had brought up taking the pills early on in the case.
Cook said she also believed Barrett made the right decision considering the circumstances and said this trial may serve as an opportunity to learn what courtroom strategies worked and which ones didn’t.
“Our intent is to push forward as strongly as we ever have,” Cook said. “And we do hope to bring justice to this family and bring a conclusion to this case before too much more time passes.”
A scheduling conference is now set for Aug. 27 as the case resets and attorneys look toward a potential new trial.