1. Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.

Kentucky man to plead caffeine insanity in wife's death

  1. Balzafire
    He was consuming five or six soft drinks and energy drinks a day, and taking diet pills

    A Kentucky man accused of strangling his wife is poised to claim excessive caffeine from sodas, energy drinks and diet pills left him so mentally unstable he couldn't have knowingly killed her, his lawyer has notified a court.

    Woody Will Smith, 33, is scheduled for trial starting Monday on a murder charge in the May 2009 death of Amanda Hornsby-Smith, 28.

    Defense attorney Shannon Sexton filed notice with the Newport court of plans to argue his client ingested so much caffeine in the days leading up to the killing that it rendered him temporarily insane — unable even to form the intent of committing a crime.

    Sexton declined requests for comment on the defense strategy he indicated he would pursue in filings before the court.

    Strategy has worked
    A legal strategy invoking caffeine intoxication is unusual but has succeeded at least once before, in a case involving a man cleared in 2009 of charges of running down and injuring two people with a car in Washington state.

    Dr. Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins University has noted in an unrelated study that there is a diagnosis for "caffeine intoxication," which includes nervousness, excitement, insomnia and possibly rambling speech.

    Prosecutors, meanwhile, said their own expert may testify there was no evidence Smith had consumed diet pills or energy drinks as he claimed before his wife died.

    Prosecutor Michelle Snodgrass said Smith tested negative for amphetamine-type substances shortly after the killing.

    Police say Smith used an extension cord to strangle his wife on May 4, 2009, then used the same cord to bind her feet together. Smith then used another cord to tie his wife's hands.

    Radio station WKRC Cincinnati reported that police records said Smith had confronted his wife shortly before her death, after learning that she had allegedly had an extra-marital affair.

    If convicted of murder, Smith could be sentenced to life in prison.

    Smith told Dr. Robert Noelker, a psychologist from Williamstown hired by the defendant, he remembers taking his children to school that morning.

    But Smith remembers little else about the ensuing hours.

    'In a daze'
    In the weeks preceding May 4, 2009, Woody Smith told Noelker, he hadn't been sleeping, in part out of fear his wife would take their two children and leave him.

    "The next several hours of Mr. Smith's life, were described to me as if he were in a daze," Noelker wrote in a report.

    After sleeping intermittently, Smith had nap with one child he picked up from school at midday at a school near their home in Dayton, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. After picking up the second child later that day, Smith said he went to his mother and stepfather's house.

    He described feeling "out of control," weeping to the point of being unable to communicate. Smith eventually confided in his stepfather, Noelker wrote, "I think my wife is dead."

    Reports and case records say during that time, he was drinking five or six soft drinks and energy drinks a day, along with taking diet pills; it all added up to more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — published by the American Psychiatric Association showing standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders — defines overdose as more than 300 mg. That's about three cups of coffee.

    Noelker said he determined Smith was open to "brief psychosis" brought on by sleep deprivation, which was caused by the heavy ingestion of diet pills and caffeine in the weeks leading up to his wife's death.

    "It is my opinion that this disorder was the direct result of psychosis due to severe insomnia," Noelker wrote in a report filed in Smith's case. Noelker is expected to be called as a defense witness.

    Previous case
    The defense strategy recalls the case of Daniel Noble, a budget analyst at the University of Idaho Foundation who awoke Dec. 7, 2009, after a restless night and multiple weeks of working long hours on the foundation's budget.

    Attorney Mark Moorer of Moscow, Idaho, won a dismissal of charges against the 31-year-old analyst, who had been accused by authorities of running down and injuring two pedestrians with a car in Pullman, Wash. Each man survived with a broken leg.

    Moorer said Noble awoke in pajamas and slippers in near-freezing weather, went to a Starbucks and downed two large coffees before driving eight miles to Pullman where the pedestrians were hit.

    Medical tests in the Noble case resulted in a diagnosis of a rare form of bipolar disorder — triggered by heavy consumption of caffeine, Moorer said.

    That evidence went before a judge, who dismissed the charges after concluding Noble was unable to form the mental intent to commit a crime.

    "We referred to it as a temporary insanity defense," Moorer said. "If you sat down and talked with him now, you'd think he's as normal as you and I."

    msnbc.com staff and news service reports


  1. Moving Pictures
    This won't fly in court. No way. If this works, then every drunk driver should be able to get off by blaming the effects of alcohol for not being in control of their actions. You're responsible for what you put in your body and any side effects caused by it. I don't know of any case where intoxication was used as a defense for murder and the defendant got acquited.
  2. xenos
    uhhhh...huh... 400mg of caffiene a day aint shit. I drink that much in the morning just so I can wake up. 400mg is around 4 coffees, or 2-3 espressos, or 5 red bulls.

    He would probably be better off pleaing that the patriarchal system socialized him into being an angry, violent man. I'd be surprised if he gets off.
  3. Balzafire
    I was just about to cite the infamous "Twinkie Defense", but did my research first. Thankfully. It might be worth doing a search on, though. It was an interesting case "The Harvey Milk murder" that may be relevant to this guys defense.
    Thanks MovingPictures, for bringing this caffeine case article to my attention. I would never have heard of it otherwise.
  4. Moving Pictures
    Can too much coffee actually make you crazy?

    Diane Mapes writes:

    We all get a little irritable after one too many cups of coffee, but a Kentucky man is claiming that too much caffeine actually caused him to unknowingly strangle his spouse.

    Charged with murdering his wife, Amanda, in May of 2009, Woody Will Smith, 33, is claiming at his trial that he ingested so much caffeine – in the form of soft drinks, energy drinks and diet pills -- that it rendered him temporarily insane.

    Could consuming too much caffeine make a person lose touch with reality and send them into a murderous rage?

    "If you’re an individual who has an underlying abnormality -- bipolar disorder or manic depressive illness or paranoid schizophreniacaffeine could precipitate a manic episode,” says Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurologist and psychiatrist and founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. “But that’s if you already have one of those disorders.”

    A combination of caffeine-laden sodas and drinks and diet pills, though, might make a “normal” person manic, he says.

    Amphetamines alone can induce psychosis,” he says. “If he were taking a prescription such as Ritalin or a street drug like speed, those alone could induce mania in somebody who’s normal. Add caffeine to it and it would help precipitate that.”

    But just because a person is manic – or temporarily psychotic – doesn’t mean they’ll become violent, he quickly adds.

    “The big jump is not that that you can cause someone to be psychotic, it’s that most people who are psychotic or manic don’t kill anyone,” he says. “An act of murder would be extraordinarily unusual for an individual who’s transiently psychotic.”

    Rather than precipitating a murderous rage, Hirsch says a caffeine overdose would most likely cause an individual to have increased heart rate, increased sweating, shakiness, headache, abdominal pain, rapid speech, and disjointed thoughts.

    “They’d have fluctuations of emotions from high to low and would be irritable and angry and feeling pressure, but they wouldn’t be murderous,” he says, comparing the “caffeine intoxication” defense to the so-called Twinkie defense.

    “Murder would be very, very unlikely,” he says. “Caffeine is the number one drug in the U.S. If caffeine insanity led you to be murderous, you’d find dead bodies at Starbucks. You’d be seeing murders all over the place.”

    Diane Mapes
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!