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State v. White

Utah Supreme Court
251 P.3d 820 (2011)


Facts

Brenda White (defendant) and her husband Jon divorced after a rocky 11-year marriage. Brenda alleged that Jon had an affair, that he was addicted to pornography, and that he frequently suggested threesomes. Jon’s behaviors made Brenda feel angry, agitated, and anxious during the marriage. Financial strain caused Brenda’s stress level to increase after the divorce. Jon stopped paying child support and canceled Brenda’s medical insurance, which meant that Brenda could not afford medication for anxiety and depression. Brenda tried to alleviate her financial troubles by refinancing the Whites’ marital home. However, she could not refinance without Jon’s assistance and signatures, which Jon was hesitant to provide. On April 26, 2006, Brenda went to Jon’s office to discuss the refinancing. Brenda drove away after a heated discussion. Later that afternoon, Brenda drove back to Jon’s office and saw him talking on a cell phone outside the building. Brenda claimed that she was overcome with anger, grief, and agitation. She drove toward Jon and chased him at a high speed. When Jon went into his office building, Brenda drove through the building’s doors and struck Jon twice with her car. Jon was injured, and Brenda was charged with attempted murder. Before trial, she moved for a jury instruction on the affirmative defense of extreme emotional distress. The trial court denied Brenda’s motion, and the appellate court affirmed. The appellate court held that a defendant must show a highly provocative, contemporaneous triggering event to assert the extreme-emotional-disturbance defense, and seeing Jon talk on a cell phone was not sufficiently provocative. The court also said that Brenda’s other stresses about her relationship, divorce, and finances were not sufficiently contemporaneous to her loss of control. White appealed to the Utah Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Nehring, J.)

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