A jury convicted a Salt Lake City man of manslaughter for strangling his girlfriend by putting her in a choke hold last year.
At issue for the jury of five men and three women was whether Todd Eugene Anderson, 43, committed murder when he put 39-year-old Jennifer Schubach in a choke hold he learned watching mixed-martial arts fights on television, or to convict him of a lesser charge of manslaughter or homicide by assault.
After about six hours of deliberation, the jury returned with the verdict of the lesser charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
"We charged murder because it is murder," Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Roger Blaylock said in his closing arguments Thursday in 3rd District Court.
But Anderson’s defense attorney, Nick Falcone, said the prosecutors "overreached" in charging Anderson with first-degree felony murder.
"He didn’t want to kill her. He loved her," Falcone said.
Anderson and Schubach had been dating since late 2010. Both struggled with substance abuse and their relationship often devolved into fighting. Both had drugs and alcohol in their system at the time of Schubach’s death, Falcone said.
On April 27, 2011, Anderson and Schubach got into an argument over the woman sewing a button on Anderson’s cousin’s shirt, prosecutors say. Schubach yelled at Anderson.
Anderson put the woman in what he later described to police as a "rear naked choke" — placing one forearm against her throat, the other on the back of her neck and applying pressure — to make her quiet, attorneys said.
"I just wanted her to be quiet for a minute," Blaylock quoted Anderson as telling police later.
During the trial, the defense called mixed-martial arts fighter Jeremy Horn to testify about the choke hold. Horn said the hold would not be fatal if done properly.
Medical experts said Anderson would have had to keep Schubach in the hold for "minutes" in order to cause her death. Asked by police how long he applied the hold, Anderson reportedly said, "Long enough."
The jury begin deliberating Thursday about 12:45 p.m.
Sentencing has been set for Aug. 10.
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