Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Temporary Insanity by Reason of Caffeine?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on September 24, 2010 6:57 AM

Some defense attorneys dream of winning an acquittal for their clients just by the sheer force of brilliant lawyering. Perhaps attorney Shannon Sexton is one such attorney, because his planned defense in the murder trial of his client, Woody Will Smith, appears to be not guilty by reason of caffeine insanity.

Of course the 'Platonic Ideal' of a provocative and creative defense tactic has got to be the famous "Twinkie defense" used by the defense team at the trial of Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, in 1979. The attempt at the caffeine-based insanity defense, reports the Associated Press, while novel, is not completely untried. It was used in a 2009, in the case of man charged with running two people down with his car in Washington state.

In the current case, Sexton will argue that Smith took huge doses of energy drinks and diet pills to stay awake because he feared his wife would run off with their two children after being suspected of having an affair. Smith is accused of strangling his wife, Amanda Hornsby-Smith, with an extension cord. According to the AP, Smith later told Dr. Robert Noelker, a psychologist hired by the defense, that he remembers taking his children to school that morning but remembers little else about the ensuing hours.

What actually may be a better strategy is the additional defense claim that the DNA found under Hornsby-Smith's nails didn't match that of her husband, and that she died at someone else's hands.

As it turns out, much of the hoopla over the so-called Twinkie defense is unwarranted. According to a 2003 article in the San Francisco Chronicle written for the 25th anniversary of the Dan White killings, Twinkies weren't even the focus of the diminished capacity by junk-food defense. "I don't think Twinkies were ever mentioned in testimony," chief defense attorney Douglas Schmidt told the Chronicle. He recalled, "HoHos and Ding Dongs," but no Twinkies.

Opening statements in the caffeine induced temporary insanity trial of Woody Will Smith began on September 21, in Newport, Kentucky.

Related Resources:

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options