Prosecutors Taking a Second Look at the Red Bull Defense

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It appears that prosecutors in Pinellas County, Florida, may have changed their minds about accepting the Red Bull defense being asserted by Stephen Coffeen. As you may recall, Coffeen is the gentleman claiming that a combination of sleep deprivation and Red Bull caused him to kill his father in December 2009. Actually, he first claimed the killing was in self-defense (his father was 83), but later changed that plea to one of Red-Bull-induced temporary insanity.

Because the facts seemed so bizarre, I wondered if there was more to this story, especially because the state reportedly had decided to accept the insanity plea. That would have sent Coffeen to a hospital instead of jail and possibly have him back on the street in months. In the one case I'm aware of in which a similar defense was accepted (yes, there is one), the defendant turned out to have a form of bipolar disorder, which at least brings the argument within sight of the realm of plausibility, if not actually in that realm.

But it turned out that the doctor who testified in Coffeen's support at a bond hearing admitted that, as far as he knew, there was no underlying mental disorder. That is, he really did testify that exhaustion plus Red Bull alone had caused the defendant to go temporarily nuts and kill his dad. Good news, though — he also said that Coffeen is okay now because he's been able to get some rest in jail, and that as long as he gets enough sleep in the future, he'll be fine. That apparently was good enough for prosecutors.

It did not make Coffeen's brother Tom too comfortable, though. Not looking forward to a life of having to make sure his brother gets plenty of rest, Tom Coffeen has been arguing that the Red Bull defense is "crap" and demanding that the state reconsider. According to this news report, it has now decided to do that:


According to the report, the judge (who Coffeen wrote last week, asking for her help) will still have to approve the further examination. Seems like getting a second opinion on the Red Bull defense is not a bad idea.