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Wife gets acquitted of murder

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Jurors needed a couple hours Monday afternoon to side with Laurie Alexander's defense and find her not guilty of fatally stabbing her husband two years ago.

The jury convened in an empty Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center -- open only for purposes of the murder trial -- and acquitted Alexander on all counts after closing arguments by opposing attorneys.

The former Dacula resident faced life in prison on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and weapons possession.

Once acquitted, defendants are typically processed out of custody and set free within a matter of hours. The U.S. Constitution prohibits prosecutors from retrying defendants on the same set of facts.

Alexander had been incarcerated at the Gwinnett County Jail since her arrest two weeks before Christmas in 2007.

The weeklong trial featured multiple twists and illustrated the toll taken on a 12-year marriage by substance abuse and betrayal.

Neither side questioned the theory that Alexander could have jabbed a kitchen knife into Kent Alexander's abdomen in the hours after she'd caught him cheating on her the night of Dec. 7, 2007, a day after Kent's 44th birthday.

In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Rich Vandever asserted that Laurie never meant to kill her husband. A charge listed in her indictment, malice murder, was thus unapplicable, Vandever said.

"She stabbed him in the gut out of frustration because he wouldn't fight back," he told jurors.

Though the couple's relationship was known to be tumultuous to the point of physical confrontation, Vandever said the killing couldn't be justified as self-defense because Laurie never admitted to it.

In early interviews with police -- and from the witness stand Friday -- Laurie maintained she heavily medicated herself with Xanax after finding 15 text messages from a mistress on Kent's cell phone, went to bed and had no recollection of the killing. Flashes of the confrontation later came to her in jailhouse dreams, she testified.

Laurie's defense held to the theory that Kent, something of a small-town hero in North Carolina who'd excelled in baseball, had fallen on hard emotional and financial times and could have killed himself.

The stabbing, given Kent's dangerously high blood alcohol content of 0.34, could also have been an accident by his own hand, attorney Jeff Sliz maintained.

Uncovering Kent's adulterous ways could have given his wife provocation to kill, thereby opening the door to a voluntary manslaughter option, but the "heat-of-passion moment" required for voluntary manslaughter didn't exist, Sliz said.

"I think the facts are very simple -- (Laurie) had no idea what happened that morning," Sliz told jurors in closings. "Can the state really look you in the eyes and tell you this was a malicious, intended assault upon Mr. Alexander? I don't think so."