NEWPORT, Ky. — 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.
Woody Will Smith, 33, went on trial yesterday on a murder charge in the May 2009 death of Amanda Hornsby-Smith, 28.
Defense attorney Shannon Sexton argued that 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.
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 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 before his wife died.
Prosecutor Michelle Snodgrass said Smith tested negative for amphetamine-type substances shortly after the killing.
Police allege 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, they said.
Smith told Dr. Robert Noelker, a psychologist from Williamstown hired by the defendant, that he remembers taking his children to school that morning. But Smith remembered little else about the ensuing hours.