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Is Caffeine Overconsumption Grounds for a Murder Defense?

According to the St. Petersburg Times, a psychiatrist who evaluated a murder suspect has concluded that a combination of lack of sleep and the consumption of an energy drink led Stephen Coffeen to kill his father in 2009.

During questioning by a prosecutor, the psychiatrist said that Coffeen had a sleep deprivation-induced psychosis, which was "accelerated by his use of Red Bull."

According to the same newspaper report, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has said it's leaning toward accepting an insanity defense, based on doctors' conclusions and other circumstances surrounding the killing.

However, it's unclear whether prosecutors have swallowed an actual Red Bull connection. Coffeen's brother says of any such argument: "It's crap. I don't think the man even drank Red Bull." 

Still, skepticism aside, this isn't the first time a possible caffeine/exhaustion defense has come up in one case or another. The Associated Press reported last year that a Washington motorist claiming caffeine intoxication was cleared in 2009 of charges of running down two people.

As for Coffeen, a hearing is set in his case for Feb. 17.

Guest blogger Ruth Carter is a law student in her final semester at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

Posted by Laurel Newby on February 11, 2011 at 04:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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