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Jury can consider manslaughter in deliberations

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Ashley Schutt testifies during her murder trial on Wednesday morning. Schutt is accused of murdering her husband.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Ashley Schutt testifies during her murder trial on Wednesday morning. Schutt is accused of murdering her husband.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Deliberations began Thursday afternoon among jurors asked to decide if Ashley Schutt killed her husband in cold blood or self-defense.

Superior Court Judge Debra Turner allowed jurors to consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter in deciding Schutt's fate. The charge wasn't part of Schutt's indictment on murder and other charges, but the judge found basis for its inclusion.

In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Fern told jurors that voluntary manslaughter, which is rooted in sudden and passionate acts, is not applicable for Schutt.

"It's not sudden when (the fatal stabbing has) been planned out this long," Fern said.

Fern attempted to poke holes in Schutt's "battle royale" story that she killed her husband, Greg Schutt, with a knife and hammer as he attacked her in July 2009. Rather, Greg was "incapacitated" on the sleep-aid Ambien when his wife stabbed him 38 times, Fern said.

Ashley's defense attorney, Thomas Clegg, said Greg ingested pills as one final attempt to kill himself, as evidenced by an email he sent her minutes before the killing that read like a suicide note. The pills, Clegg argued, instead triggered Greg to assail his wife as she slept, prompting her to fight back.

The Ambien dulled the much larger man's ability to defend himself, Clegg posited to jurors. He urged them to acquit on all charges.

"She is the poster child, the ultimate example, of a battered woman," Clegg said.

Deliberations are expected to resume today. Georgia code allows a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter convictions. The minimum sentence is one year.

Schutt faces life in prison if convicted of murder.