Xanax Defense: Utah Woman Who Allegedly Mowed Down Husband With SUV Claims Drug Led to Attack

Utah woman plays the Xanax card at attempted-murder trial.

August 10, 2012, 2:54 AM

Aug. 10, 2012 — -- The Salt Lake City woman who allegedly broke her husband's legs while chasing him with her SUV and crashing into an office building says an anti-anxiety drug is to blame for her actions.

In a dramatic and public incident, all captured on surveillance video, Brenda White, 36, allegedly chased her husband, Jon White, through a parking garage in her Ford Explorer, plowed into a Salt Lake County office building and then crashed the vehicle into him.

"This SUV just drove into our building," a caller told a 911 dispatcher April 26, 2006. "[The driver is] chasing some guy down. The car is all the way inside the building. [The driver] went through, going like 70 miles an hour."

At the time, Jon White was dodging his estranged wife, with whom he was in the middle of what police describe as an "ugly divorce." In the end, he needed 63 stitches over his legs, arms and face.

Brenda was arrested and charged with attempted murder. She was later released on $500,000 bail.

Taking the witness stand Thursday in her own defense, Brenda White told the court that she had taken a handful of Xanax before heading to the Woodland Towers office building, and had heard her husband on his phone in the parking garage telling someone else that he loved her, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

A witness said in an interview, "We heard a crashing sound. And a guy came running by with an SUV following right behind him."

After Brenda White allegedly crashed into the Woodland Towers building, her husband's legs were broken. She told the court Thursday that the last thing she remembers is hearing her husband on the phone and, after that, being inside an office building, The Tribune reported.

"Had anybody come off those elevators or around a corner, they would have clearly been an innocent victim of this," police Sgt. Paul Jurosak said in an interview.

In a Utah courtroom this week, Brenda White's attorneys argued that she was suffering "extreme emotional distress" in the moments that she crashed through the building. They say she was suffering from panic attacks from problems with her husband, and lost control when she took too much Xanax.

It is a strategy they won't discuss during trial, but spoke about it on local television five years ago.

"If a jury were to hear all those factors, I think they could certainly empathize with her situation," defense attorney Jason Schatz said in 2007. "They would probably understand."

Before the car attack, Jon White alleges, his wife came to his office during lunch and played the song "Angry Johnny" by the singer and songwriter Poe, which includes the lyrics, "I wanna kill you/I wanna blow you away."

"And when that particular lyric came up, she would mimic a gun with her hands and point it at his head," an attorney for Jon White alleged.

Rare side effects for Xanax include outbursts of anger, delusions and even aggressive and bizarre behavior. But such symptoms are rare.

"Whether it's Xanax, alcohol or prescription medication, these really aren't complete defenses," ABC News legal analyst Dana Cole said. "So it's used to reduce the charge, not to get away with the crime."

If convicted, Brenda White faces five years to life in prison.

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