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Sean D. Reyes
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UAGO Appeals Court Victory: Limits to Extreme Emotional Defense

In this Legally Speaking edition, we speak with Assistant Solicitor General Karen Klucznik about the recent State v. Smith Appeals Court victory.

The Utah Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of the Utah Attorney General’s Office, and on behalf of victims, by setting limits to the widely-used Extreme Emotional Distress defense in murder cases.

It’s taken more than a decade for this case to work through the Utah legal process. With the help of recent legislation, new standards apply about when a defendant can say in court that they ‘lost control’ and shouldn’t face the maximum penalty because they reacted violently to a situation.

This case centers on Daniel Smith, a husband who shot his wife seven times – 25 minutes after she told him she wanted a divorce and was leaving him. He said he was traumatized and shot his wife in an emotional haze. So, he wanted to claim an extreme emotional distress defense that would have lowered a murder conviction to manslaughter. Based on the case facts, the trial court denied the defense. The Utah Court of Appeals recently affirmed the trial court’s ruling and Smith’s murder conviction.

The bottom line is, because of the statutory changes to the EED defense and the court of appeals’ ruling, defendants who kill their intimate partners when their partners try to leave may find they are less able to use the extreme emotional defense as a mitigating factor, due to the timeline, level of violence, and other factors.

Assistant SG Klucznik has argued extreme emotional distress cases for many years and joins us now to examine the implications of the Appeals Court ruling.

Listen to the podcast here.