Caffeine OD made me kill wife: Kentucky man
Man says excessive caffeine from sodas, energy drinks, diet pills rendered him temporarily insane
A Kentucky man accused of strangling his wife is poised to claim that 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.
The murder trial of Woody Will Smith, 33, was scheduled to start Monday in Newport, Ky., in connection with the May 2009 death of Amanda Hornsby-Smith, 28.
Defence lawyer Shannon Sexton filed notice with the 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 defence strategy indicated by his court filings.
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.
Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioural biology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, 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 before his wife died. Smith tested negative for amphetamine-type substances shortly after the killing, prosecutor Michelle Snodgrass said.
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.
If convicted of murder, Smith could be sentenced to life in prison.
Smith told Robert Noelker, a psychologist he had been seeing, that he remembers taking his children to school that morning. But Smith said he remembers little else about the ensuing hours.
In the weeks preceding May 4, 2009, Woody Smith told Noelker that 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.
Reports and case records say that 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 daily.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the American Psychiatric Association's guidebook for the classification of mental disorders — defines a caffeine overdose as more than 300 mg. That's about three cups of coffee.