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. d junior

    The writer said at first his girlfriend then later his wife cuz he trying to help clear his name cuz redbull gave him wings lol

    September 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. OnTheRoad

    He and his (stupid) attorney are setting up an appeal siting a bad defense by a dumb attorney!

    September 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jam108

    Could excessive caffeine cause temporary insanity? No question about it. I know for a fact that I'm at least twice as likely to get into some kind of confrontation after drinking even one cup of coffee. In fact, I've promised my wife that I won't drink coffee if we're around one another.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cody

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

    Hmm. This may be a snap judgement. But. I'm gonna go with "No".....

    Actually, the incident with the driver and the caffeine I can see happening. But strangling someone? And continuing to strangle them until they died??? How about....man up.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. youyou

    I know it sounds crazy, but too much caffeine can make you nuts. Everybody reacts to it differently. I once had an entire energy drink and I got incredibly angry and mad like I never had before. Certainly not enough to hurt someone, but maybe this guy reacted differently.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. steve505

    Quick, lets make caffeine products illegal and write up some drug laws to enforce it. With any luck, we'll create a giant black market for it and a few more violent cartels. Ol' Juan Valdez down in Colombia can swap out his mule for an SUV and some automatic weapons, and start murdering anyone who stands in the way of his efforts to supply America with the chemical substance we call caffeine.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      We'd have a big problem on our hands. Coffee is the second largest commodity in the world, second only to oil.

      September 20, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. deanna

    His defense lawyer should be fired and this fool should plead guilty because nobody is going to buy that for one second period

    September 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. pumpcity

    Im assuming we will have to pay to keep this dirtbag in prison for the rest of his life?

    Im thinking execution of all the lifers in prison would help our debt situation?

    September 20, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff

    Why take personal responsibility for anything anymore? Everything is caused by outside forces we cannot control and nothing is caused by personal choices we make. GET OVER IT! You kill someone – you have no one to blame but yourself. It is not your mother or father's fault and it certainly is not the fault of drugs, TV, teachers who did not give you enough attention, bullies in school, or caffeine. This piece of trash chose to kill his girlfriend and he should pay the price for that choice.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. d junior

    yeah welterweight boxer floyd mayweather had to much caffeine thats why he hit his wife and threaten his kids.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. susieq41

    Isn't anyong responsible for their actions anymore?????

    September 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. howie

    I live in KY saying this can only be a redneck deal is very weak and a very uneduacted person would say tha. Cause in MA two weeks a man held people up at the discover channel cause he didn't like there programing. I don't think that was KY. There are good and bad everywhere. Maybe check your backyard!

    September 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheHeyseed

      Dang Howie, spell and grammer check?

      September 20, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. srand

    I do believe in the 'temporary insanity' defense...just not in this case. I was once so enraged when someone called my mother a name...that I ran up one flight of stairs and busted in the door to the name caller's apartment. This all took about 1/2 minute...and I never did remember running up to stairs and bashing in the door. All I remember is that my mother came running after me...and she probably saved me from getting my butt kicked. That's usually called a crime of passion.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. susieq41

    Sorry, "ANYONE" not anyong.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Randy

    The whole concept of insanity or any kind of mental problem as a defense is ridiculous. I believe in the rabid dog theory of justice. If a dog, or any animal, is a danger to society, you must kill it. You do it humanely, not to punish the dog but to protect society. The same theory should apply to humans. Not that I actually believe this guys bulls**t defense.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
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