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State v. White

Utah Court of Appeals
206 P.3d 646 (2009)


Facts

After an 11-year marriage, Jon White divorced his wife, Brenda White (defendant), and left the home. According to Brenda, Jon had caused her severe stress during their marriage, and the divorce and resulting financial difficulties only compounded her stress. In April 2006, Brenda went to Jon’s workplace to discuss the refinancing of their home. The conversation escalated significantly. Jon eventually returned to work. Hours later, Brenda returned to Jon’s workplace. Jon exited the building while speaking on a cell phone. According to Brenda, Jon had previously denied owning a cell phone in order to avoid communication with her. Brenda became enraged and sped toward Jon in her vehicle, driving through the building and running him down. The State of Utah (plaintiff) charged Brenda with attempted murder. Brenda moved for a pretrial order to include a jury instruction on the affirmative defense of extreme emotional distress, contending that seeing Jon on the cell phone caused all the built-up stress from the marriage and divorce to boil over, resulting in the burst of anger that caused her to strike Jon. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that an extreme emotional distress instruction is available only where a highly provocative, contemporaneous trigger would have caused a reasonable person to act as Brenda did. Brenda appealed the denial.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bench, J.)

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