No Jail Time for “Red Bull Killer”

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I mentioned in February that lawyers for a Florida man were arguing he should not be held responsible for murder partly because he had committed it under the influence of Red Bull, and that prosecutors appeared to agree. The man’s brother was not too keen on this argument, mostly since the victim was their father, and prosecutors agreed to take a second look. But they didn’t change their minds, and last month a judge ruled that Stephen Coffeen was not guilty by reason of insanity because he didn’t understand at the time he acted that smothering his dad with a pillow was wrong.

Reports said that two doctors hired by the prosecution had agreed with defense experts that Coffeen had been temporarily insane. In accepting their reports and a plea bargain, the judge stated that “this case is not and never has been about Red Bull.” It never has been entirely about Red Bull, but that was part of the argument originally—Coffeen supposedly had a psychotic break due to lack of sleep and too much caffeine (from Red Bull), and a doctor who testified at a bond hearing said that as far as he knew, Coffeen had no underlying mental disorder. The other doctors may have reached a different conclusion about that, of course, but their reports are sealed.

Under the judge’s order, Coffeen is off to a mental hospital for evaluation and his status will be reviewed in December. His lawyers say that he is already mentally well—it was temporary insanity, remember—and so it seems entirely possible that he’ll be free by Christmas. (Update: he was.) He probably should not be expecting any invitations from his brother, though.