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. Steven

    So caffeine will now be a controlled substance.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC-VA

      God I hope not

      September 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joel

    Actually caffeine works in much the same way as cocaine and crack in the brain, on the same receptors, so it is absolutely reasonable for the same effects to occur with a high enough dosage. Do crack addicts kill because of the drugs they're on? yes. I truly believe that energy drinks and caffeine pills are dangerous. Add these to an angry person and you are looking for disaster.

    But I think the greater point here is that regardless of which drug he was on, he was responsible for putting himself on it, and should deal with the repercussions. A cokehead has to pay for his or her crimes, so this guy should too. If he wants to sue the energy drink manufacturer, fine.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • JPT

      Disagree with your assessment: "A cokehead has to pay for his or her crimes..." Ever heard of Paris Hilton?

      September 20, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      A kid in our town stabbed a guy in the neck behind Walmart over a $40 argument, and his defense argued that due to a crack induced psychosis, he believed he was being jumped by multiple attackers. It didn't hold up, and he got 25 years.

      September 20, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheHeyseed

      not to mention Dubya Bush.

      September 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • kite005

      You almost got it right until the end. People who kill someone because they had too many Buds don't get to sue Budweiser.

      September 20, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff

    How about not getting your caffeine in the morning?
    Now that would be understandable.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JPT

    Actually he was so hopped up on caffeine and energy drinks that the victim was his girlfrind at the end of 2nd paragraph, but he got a license and married her so quickly, that she was, in fact, his wife at the start of the 3rd paragraph.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steeve-o

    Wouldn't he still be held criminally responsible due to the fact that he ingested all the caffeine and pills that made him kill his girlfriend?! Like, when you hit someone with your car because you're drunk... sure you can blame the alcohol, but it was still your dumb a$$ that did it.

    I say, the caffeine just made him not be able to put it off any longer.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lindsay

    Too much caffeine? You gotta be s*it'in me.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. La Piovra

    As someone who grew up, lived, and worked in Cuban Miami and worked night shifts in the local nut wards, I'd say his defense doesn't even meet the Durham rule, let alone M'Naughton. I wasn't the only one who drank oceans of the Cuban stuff and some of the Turkish stuff trying to keep alert for an outburst. The whole staff did, as do law, med, and grad students and everyone who ever pulled a lobster shift. WE drank coffee, our patients did not, except for the milked-down dishwater everyone got served with breakfast. None of us killed anybody, but some of our patients had. Don't try this defense in south Florida – the judge is probably full of more caffeine than you.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DUH

    I bet the package of twinkies also caused a twitch in the left eyelid! If this guy is found not guilty, I'd been suspect of the jury pool.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. I_Hustle

    I bet he eats a whole mess o' Kentucky jelly in prison.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SW

    Seriously? If he gets off on that defense, I'm going get up tomorrow morning, drink a cup of coffee, rob a bank, urinate in public, smash some car windows in, burn down a DMV, and loiter somewhere.

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

      LMAO @ "...and loiter somewhere"

      September 20, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      You are a hoot!! If the nutcase had just chosen Red Bull, he'd have been given wings and could have flown out of murder range. p.s. – Can I use the sugar-high defense???

      September 20, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotreDameGirl

      OMG.....too funny!

      September 21, 2010 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Everybody in prison is innocent. If you commit the crime do the time and because this guy is claiming too much caffeine made him do it, how in the H does he remember how much caffeine he ingested.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DC

    Looks like the diet pills didn't work...just sayin...

    September 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Translation

    Any excuse can be used as a defense. The real question is: Is it a SUCCESSFUL defense?

    September 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brian James

    It was the MUSIC! No, wait, it was the VIDEO GAMES! No, wait, it was the violence on THE TV! No, wait, it was the... shut the hell up. You killed a person. It doesn't matter if you were on drugs, were sleep deprived, or just had a bad day. You're a murderer and you're going to jail for a damn long time.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bethradd

    Unfortunately, this defense has worked before, in Whitman County Washington where a guy who got major road rage and hit other cars used it. Can't believe it worked, but it did. So there is some kind of precedence in case law, definitely. Which is stupid.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
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