September 20th, 2010
01:39 PM ET

Murder defense: Too much caffeine

Can too much caffeine make you insane - and mentally unstable enough to unknowingly kill someone?

That's a question a Newport, Kentucky, jury will have to answer when they eventually deliberate in the trial of a man whose lawyer is expected to claim that too much soda, caffeine-laced diet pills and the energy drink No Fear - combined with sleep deprivation - meant he had no idea what he was doing when he killed his wife.

Woody Will Smith's murder trial begins Monday, and according to the Kentucky Enquirer, Smith's lawyer will argue that the combination of all that caffeine was responsible for the death of his wife.

Amanda Hornsby-Smith was strangled with an extension cord in 2009 - and now Smith is facing life in prison if he is found guilty of murdering his wife in their home.

Defense attorneys are expected to focus on a psychological evaluation conducted by an expert that determined Smith couldn't be criminally responsible for the murder because he was suffering a temporary psychotic disorder based on the lack of sleep and use of amphetamine and caffeine products, the Enquirer reported.

"This dissociative belief and intense paranoid delusions are the direct result of the ingestion of large amounts of caffeine and diet pills,"a psychologist wrote in his report, according to the paper.

The prosecutor is expected to call her own witness, the paper said, who will refute the entire argument.

It's not the first time a caffeine-induced defense has been heard in a courtroom. Last year a Whitman County judge dropped charges against Daniel Noble, who blamed too much caffeine as the reason he lost control of his car and hit someone on the Washington State University-Pullman campus. The accident didn't kill the victim, but did cause nerve damage and several broken bones.

The judge made the ruling after hearing testimony from several medical experts - but Noble also had been diagnosed as bi-polar. However, as part of the ruling, the judge made it a condition that Noble not be allowed to consume caffeine.

soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. BillShut

    Does it mean he didn't know what he was doing? Probably not. Probably just means he was REALLY hyper when he did it, and might have resembled a kid playing Whack-A-Mole.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Eileen Heath

      I wish this didn't make me laugh. It's terribly wrong.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rich

    Ahhh, the good old combination of amphetamines and caffeine. It's very possible (and dare I say likely) that he had an extreme case of amphetamine psychosis (hallucinations, delusions, paranoia). That would most definitely turn this into a case of second degree murder. Having extensively studied these drug mechanisms and interactions, I am inclined to believe that this man had previously undiagnosed mental problems that were exacerbated by excessive stimulant intake + sleep deprivation. Yeah, he ****ed up big time, but I highly doubt it was premeditated murder.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  3. michelley

    killing ur wife seems like the thing to do these days husbands r just finding creative ways to get out of it. guilty? for sure! insane? by all means yes because u have to b insane to want to or to actually murder someone. futhermore i believe the death penalty should b reinstated to detour some of these murders as well as other murdersm.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • joejoe9

      The death penalty doesn't detour anyone. Why should they get an easy out with no suffering...I'd rather pay the money towards knowing they rot in prison for life, and having no life. Maybe they could let them have some outside activity every now and then,such as 'waterboarding'. It is far more expensive to keep them on death row than to keep them in prison.

      September 21, 2010 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. joejoe9

    So if someone wants to potentially kill someone else & get away with it legally, all they have to do is take drugs or too much caffeine, and that might get them off? That's like saying: "...I was so drunk I don't remember getting in the car in the first place, so I shouldn't be responsible..."
    If someone takes that much caffeine and deprives themselves of sleep, then they should be responsible for whatever happens, as they knowingly took that much caffeine to begin with ... whether it should be manslaughter or 2nd degree murder is the real question!

    September 21, 2010 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Doc

    He ingested the stuff, he's responsible for what it did to him. Period.

    And to the guy on this board claiming caffeine doesn't "directly" affect the body – making coffee for a living does not make you a physiologist. Please don't visit Discovery dot com or Wikipedia and then "teach" everyone incorrect information. Caffeine does directly affect the body. It binds to receptors in may tissues of the body amongst other effects. I know this because – wait for it – I am a physiologist.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Help Here

    Hey guys, will you visit SaveStan.ORG a friend of mine with 4 young babies is fighting for his life....... Thanks

    September 21, 2010 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. El

    It isn't impossible. Lack of sleep alone, depending on how long without and the mental stability of the individual, can/may cause psychosis. Add bi-polar on top of it....definitely.

    Try living with someone with this disability. That will change your mind.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Doc

      How is ingesting too much caffeine a disability? Guess we better round up everyone in Starbucks and haul them off to the mental ward.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. StateOfMaine

    I only get unstable enough to kill BEFORE I've had my morning coffee.....you've been warned.....

    September 21, 2010 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. mjckwmn

    Bull Poo! I'm a wife and mother of four. I live on diet pills, too much caffeine, and not enough sleep. Yet I have never killed my husband.... no matter how tempting. LOL

    September 21, 2010 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. phil

    At least he isn't using the old " I was born that way " defense used by gays lusting after our brothers.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • NMCB

      fail troll is fail

      September 21, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. Eileen Heath

    While I understand the judge in the case where the guy lost control of his car – this is not a "nervous twitch" brought on by a stimulant. And why is caffeine getting top bill? This guy used diet pills, too! He was on a Mini-Thins high. Poor man's speedball.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bill W

    Why is the man's attorney using this as a defence? He knows it is a waste of time.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Lilia Guanzon

    Have we really lost our sense of conscience and responsibility? It all comes down to the choices we make – alcohol, drugs, coffee, energy drinks, – we all know the effects and consequences. I suppose the attorney is just doing his job so he can get his bottom line – $.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. NMCB

    i could see someone using caffeine as an excuse for a car wreck, like your tired, but the caffeine is still keeping you mentally awake. your reflexes are slowed down and something happens too fast for you to respond, however, murder is a completely different scenario and i dont see a legitimate defense.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    I guess the next step would be to sue the coffee maker company. How dare they caused him to act like a belligerent retard!. They are the killers here!. ehhh

    September 21, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
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