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. WMesser58

    If caffeine is a defense and lack of sleep is every nerd on the planet would be serial killers. PLEASE!!!!!! Admit that any crime in and of itself is unnatural unless you're a sociopath or psycho lets pretend there’s a victim that was “MURDERED”.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kw67

    Let's just assume for giggles, that it was the caffeine's fault. Did someone force him to consume it and make him stay awake? It's always someone/something else's fault, isn't it?

    September 20, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    His sleep deprivation coupled with the large amount of caffeine would likely result in acute irritability. My theory: wife took away his No Fear energy drinks, he lost his temper and she lost her life. Hope CNN follows up with the news of the verdict, will be interesting to see the outcome. One thing for certain: never underestimate what can be sold to a jury.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. obviously

    Obviously we need to make caffeine – as well as alcohol and tobacco – illegal just like marijuana!

    We need MORE FEAR in this country! Caffeine will make you turn into Ethiopians and marry that jungle guy who picks coffee beans in South America... Juan Valdez!

    Arizona kick the Mexicans out because they like... COFFEE!... and weed!... and white girls!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Will

    I think it is insane to believe that you can do that to your body and not have severe negative consequences. There is no free lunch. What goes up must come down.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |

    I love this I use to pull 24hr duty in the Army coffee BB=speed
    To make it. I never killed any one!
    That's what I was there for lol

    September 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jackie

    Is too much caffeine the writer of this story's excuse too? It says she was his girlfriend in one sentence, and his wife in the next. LOL

    September 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Can't she be both?

      September 21, 2010 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dr. Campbell

    Caffeine Allergies are a legitimate disorder. I have patients who were mis-diagnosed as schizophrenic, manic depressive, or OCD. It usually happends to somebody who was a substance abuser. The caffeine targets cells and neurons directly, the body releases excessive amounts of chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline causing repulsive reactions. When these chemicals are released at the right time and at just right amount, they help a person stay alert, active and in high spirits. However, on excessive levels, it results to repulsive behavior.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. kevin

    up next: "I drank so much and blacked out. The next day i woke up next to my dead wife who i must have strangled the night before, but i was so drunk and blacked out i dont remember doing it." what a joke take responsibility for your actions...rot in jail.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mb

    Oh ya...sure buddy. We believe your RIDICULOUS, PREPOSTEROUS excuse for slaughtering another human being.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Matt

    Wow, the "Twinkie" defense returns.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Damon

    Lots of people take a little too much from time to time. But if you've ever had waaay too much caffeine, you would know how easy it is to freak out and have a panic attack. Caffeine is not a completely safe substance. It can kill you. It is arguably more dangerous than cocaine, but cocaine makes you feel so good it is more prone to be abused. But if this guy were using alcohol, or even cocaine, this wouldn't be news.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      arguably more dangerous than Cocaine? Really? Cocaine kills heart tissue on contact. You don't hear of lives being ruined by caffeine,but how many crackhead stories and dead yuppies do you hear about?

      September 21, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. jason wolff

    Let the redneck rot.

    September 20, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. okay

    I just had a 5-hr energy shot, 12 cups of coffee and a chocolate zombie bunny...Watch Out ! where was the sky-genie and his zombie son on this one..wheres your all mighty..what a load of crap..i bet this guy was wearing his Nikes..Just Did It..If Kris Kristofferson was president this never woulda happened...remember your sky genies zombie son was a Jew..he'll eat your brain and steal your checkbook...KRIS KRISTOFFERSON FOR know you liked those Blade movies

    September 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. okay

    Mmmmm rotten redneck...zombie son is hungry

    September 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
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