Third District Judge William Barrett on Friday denied a motion that would have let a defense attorney use the concept of "extreme emotional distress" as a factor in the case of a woman charged with crashing her SUV through a plate-glass door and running into her estranged husband.
Defense attorney Jason Schatz told the judge he planned to ask the Utah Supreme Court to address the case and rule on what constitutes "extreme emotional distress" a move that Barrett welcomed.
"I'd like some guidance on this," the judge said.
Barrett earlier noted that case law does not provide a clear indication of what that phrase means, and two cases cited by Schatz involved individuals who had committed crimes after being physically provoked.
Schatz argues that a combination of many factors pushed his client, Brenda Christine White, over the edge and made her act in the way she did when she rammed her now ex-husband, Jon White, who was injured during the incident on April 26, 2006.
Brenda White, 31, is charged with first-degree felony attempted criminal homicide and second-degree felony criminal mischief.
Schatz argued that a jury should be able to hear information about the bitter divorce, including Brenda White's contention that she was extremely stressed because her husband was having an affair; she had to switch from being a full-time homemaker to working 70 to 80 hours a week; her therapist died and she no longer had necessary prescription medication; and Jon White had gone back on agreements to provide child support.
But prosecutor Alicia Cook argued that while there may or may not have been stressful incidents in Brenda White's life, these were not unlike those faced by many people on a regular basis and other people do not commit violent acts.
Cook said there was nothing produced as evidence that would rise to a legal level that could justify committing a crime and defending oneself by claiming severe emotional distress.
Barrett said he tended to agree with Cook but added that he is not the jury that will be hearing the case.White's next court date is a Dec. 10 scheduling conference. She is out of jail on $500,000 bond. Jon White has remarried, has custody of the couple's two young daughters and lives in Iowa.
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