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. Jim

    The Biblical book or Genesis has the classic story of Adam and Eve blaming everyone but themselves for messing up, and Smith simply engages in the same attempt to shift blame onto something else. Unless he was force-fed the alleged caffeine, if he actually murdered his wife he is totally responsible and should be made to suffer the consequences.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Leslie B.

    Even if it affected him that badly – which I don't have that much trouble believing – was anyone forcing it down his throat? How is this any different than killing someone while drunk or high? You ingest the stuff, you're responsible for your actions.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      Yes, but if you are impaired and acting on impulse, you are not acting in a premeditated manner, which is what first degree murder means. The point is not that he didn't do it or wasn't responsible, the point is that the correct charge is not first degree murder.

      September 21, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Edwin

    "... 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 ..."

    I don't pretend to know how much caffeine does to the body, but if a psych eval says he is nuts, I believe it. Forget the headline and the sensationalism - stick to facts and testimony by experts.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beasley

      It's not always very good testimony if the defense team hand-selected and paid for the psychiatrist that made the diagnosis. The prosecution might have their own shrink with a different opinion.

      September 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      The question is, "Whose experts?" Murder is murder.

      September 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rob

    Genius, the writer and editor had too much caffeine.....

    September 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    Was it his wife or his girlfriend? The story contradicts itself?

    September 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Caffine Really?

    Caffine and lack of sleep? Thats a good one. What about all the people in the military that stay up for days at a time and live of caffine? Looks like Tiny Tim is going to have a new playmate.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlotte

      Not to mention those of us who spent years and years in graduate school. We might have wanted to kill our Ph.D. advisors, but weren't going to try to blame it on the daily buckets of caffiene....

      September 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. camel

    tummy ache made me kill =(

    September 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jill

    What a sad world we live in. Its all about taking responsibility for your actions. I was a full-time working mother of a newborn. I got little sleep and drank a lot of coffee and soda. It never made me snap and assault/kill anyone and trust me there were a lot of people that got on my sleep deprived, caffeine amped nerves!

    September 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ray

    He killed his girlfriend or his wife? At the beginning of this report it says he killed his girlfriend, but as you continue reading it says that he killed his wife. ????????????????????????????????????

    September 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troy from S'port

      He was so hopped up on Mountain Dew that he unknowingly married her before he finished killing her.

      September 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • sammi

      omg you're only, like, the 20th person to point that out. We get it, someone made a mistake! he killed his significant other and should fry for it. end of story.

      September 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pheel

    Toss him Overboard

    September 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. monobot

    Worst defense ever.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. crystal

    No it cant be possible that caffeine made him kill his wife And just because a man hit a person while all hyped up on caffeine doesnt mean he should get away with this murder. it is a murder not an assult.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tellmemore

    Rediculous! Clearly, the Litigation Industry is out of control in America.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      Litigation Industry. Good one!

      September 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Observer1

    There goes the value of my Starbucks stock! Sheesh!

    September 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Feine Feind

    Here comes the new coffee warning labels: May cause nausea, mild jitters, or homicidal criminal insanity. If your murder spree lasts more than four hours, seek medical attention.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Starbucks

      Good one

      September 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • I like pizza

      haha...nice.

      September 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotreDameGirl

      It will be on there after this crazy fool gets convicted! LOL!

      September 21, 2010 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
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