Can the intake of caffeinated substances really cause temporary insanity? If so, was that the case for Woody Will Smith from Newport, Kentucky? Woody’s defense team plans to argue that he had ingested excessive amounts of caffeine (over 400 mg) from five or six energy and soft drinks daily in addition to diet pills, which rendered him temporarily insane and they argue that given that fact he could not have consciously strangled his wife to death. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association defines a caffeine overdose as more than 300 mg. During the day of the incident, Woody claims to remember little about the events that occurred and that he was unable to understand his actions. Known effects of high caffeine intake range from irregular heartbeat and nervousness to temporary insanity and skeletal muscle breakdown when taken in large amounts.
The defense also plans to use the testimony of the expert witness Dr. Robert Noelker, a psychologist from Williamstown, who determined Woody was suffering from “brief psychosis” brought on by sleep deprivation caused by the ingestion of caffeine and diet pills. This case plans to build on the precedent set by the case of Daniel Noble, who drank two coffee’s from Starbucks and during his drive home, lost control of his car hitting pedestrians and driving away. However, this case was different in that Noble was diagnosed with a rare form of bipolar disorder that could have been aggravated by heavy caffeine consumption. Also there was no one killed in the case, and as a result the judge let Noble off, but with the understanding he would not be allowed to consume caffeine again.
Given all of the information from this case, I believe that Woody Smith should still face conviction for murder by the jury for three reasons. The first is that unlike the Noble case Woody actively murdered someone, he did not just loose control of a car. Also unlike the Noble case, Woody does not have any other psychiatric diseases that could have affected his judgment. The final reason is that voluntarily subjecting oneself to caffeine intoxication should not be treated very differently from subjecting oneself to another potentially toxic substance such as alcohol. Overall, though the intake of caffeine may have had some effect on Woody’s judgment, it is not conclusive enough to show that it alone caused his actions. If this were the case we would see a lot more aggressive behavior coming from the many college students and working professionals who use caffeine to get through their daily routines. Rather, his actions must be in coordination with a specific criminal decision he made or influenced by some unknown mental illness he was suffering from. Another thing for the judge to consider in this case is the precedent it may set.
Barrouquere, Brett. “Kentucky Man Kills Wife, Blames Caffeine.” Salon.com. Associated Press, 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 04 Oct. 2010. <http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2010/09/20/us_caffeine_defense>.
Black, Rosemary. “Buzz Killer: Could Caffeine Overload Cause Temporary Insanity?” NY Daily News. NY Daily News, 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 04 Oct. 2010. <http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/2010/09/21/2010-09-21_buzz_killer_could_caffeine_overload_cause_temporary_insanity.html>.
Drummond, Katie. “Any Truth to the Caffeine Intoxication Insanity Defense?” Aolnews.com. Aol News, 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 04 Oct. 2010. <http://www.aolnews.com/surge-desk/article/caffeine-intoxication-insanity-as-legal-defense-strategy/19640561>.
Simon, Mallory. “Murder Defense: Too Much Caffeine.” This Just In – CNN.com Blogs. CNN.com, 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 04 Oct. 2010. <http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/20/murder-defense-too-much-caffeine/>.