Imagine meeting a cute girl one day at the dog park where you regularly take your dog for a walk. Over the course of a few weeks, you exchange playful glances, crack a few jokes - you seem to be hitting it off really well.
Eventually, you dare yourself to ask her for some coffee - she says yes! Things seem to be moving in a good direction. The first date goes well, so does the second. Three dates in, you ask her out officially - she says yes again!
You're happy, beginning to get feelings, she loves dogs! She smokes weed!
Did you just find the perfect girl?
Until one fateful night, she takes a huge bong rip. Sits back and at some point - walks to the kitchen and begins to stab you over and over again. 108 times to be exact - with multiple knives. Then, once you're dead and bleeding on the floor, she turns to your dog and brutally murders it too...which is no easy feat if you know anything about dogs.
After the cops arrive, they find her stabbing herself – obviously not fatally – and only when the cops threaten her with a gun, did she relinquish the weapon.
After initially being sentence with murder, five years of appeals her 25-year sentence was reduced to just four due to her conviction being downgraded to manslaughter. Why? Because cannabis made her do it…or so her defense claimed. And so the judge agreed, and now we have a legal precedent for this kind of behavior.
In today’s article, I would like to explore this case in greater details, discuss some logical fallacies that contradict the claim of “psychosis” as a reason for her acts, and explore why this is a dangerous legal precedent to set which could lead to many more people claiming “the cannabis made me do it!”
Let’s dig in!
A Quick Recap
For those unfamiliar with this tragic case, let's examine the known facts.
In May 2018, Chad O'Melia was found stabbed to death in his Thousand Oaks, California condominium with over 100 wounds across his body. His girlfriend, Bryn Spejcher, was also in the home, severely injured from self-inflicted stab wounds. Responding officers had to taser and baton Spejcher to get her to drop the knife.
Investigators later determined that in addition to O'Melia, Spejcher had also fatally stabbed his husky dog multiple times.
Spejcher, an audiologist, confessed to the killings but claimed she had no memory of the events. She said she had smoked marijuana from a bong before the attack and experienced an out-of-body psychotic episode where voices told her to "save herself" by killing O'Melia.
Despite using cannabis before without incident, Spejcher blamed the marijuana for inducing delusions that led to the brutal attacks.
Initially, prosecutors charged Spejcher with first-degree murder. She pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in January 2019, facing a potential sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
The case dragged on through years of legal delays and changes in both defense attorneys and prosecutors. It was set for a jury trial in October 2022.
But just a month before the trial, the new prosecution team motioned to amend the charges against Spejcher to involuntary manslaughter.
They cited new psychological evaluations diagnosing her with cannabis-induced psychosis. Multiple experts agreed Spejcher was delusional and unconscious during the attacks due to voluntary marijuana intoxication.
Persuaded by these assessments, Judge David Worley approved reducing the charges over fierce objections by O'Melia's family, who insisted she be tried for murder.
The involuntary manslaughter conviction meant Spejcher now faced only a maximum of 4 years in prison instead of a potential life sentence.
While this recounting just presents the objective facts, the dramatic legal shift so close to trial after years of delays raises some serious questions.
How could premeditated stabbing someone over 100 times constitute an "unconscious" act? Is cannabis-induced psychosis supported by any scientific evidence or just a convenient excuse? And how could such an apparent legal injustice occur?
In the next section, we will explore some of the contradictions, inconsistencies, and dubious claims that permeate this case. Because setting a precedent that allows blaming heinous criminal acts on marijuana benefits no one, least of all justice.
So what is Psychosis anyhow?
Before assessing psychosis claims in this case, let's examine what clinical psychosis actually means.
Psychosis is defined as a detachment from reality characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior. The person cannot distinguish their internal subjective experience from the external objective world.
Symptoms may include false beliefs like paranoid conspiracies or grandiose abilities, hearing and seeing things that aren't there, and speech and behavior that appears irrational or uncontrolled.
Causes are complex and not fully understood, but may include mental illnesses like schizophrenia, brain injuries, drug intoxication, sleep deprivation, and certain prescriptions like steroids. Genetics and environment also play a role.
Notably, no scientific evidence establishes cannabis alone precipitating sudden unpredictable violent psychosis in otherwise healthy users. While heavy use may exacerbate certain underlying conditions, it does not acutely generate psychotic breaks.
However, tenuous psychosis claims have been invoked in other violent criminal defenses involving substance use - sometimes persuasively.
For instance, infamous Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur's lawyer argued his client's heinous crimes resulted from psychosis triggered by alcohol and sleeping pills. The unproven explanation aimed to generate empathy from the judge.
Anti-anxiety and sleeping medications also featured in a successful psychosis defense for a Virginia woman who drowned her children. These drugs indeed list psychosis as a rare side-effect.
But no substances have definitive links to out-of-character homicidal violence in stable individuals. Nuanced, multi-factor mental health and criminological perspectives remain vital.
While psychosis is real, allowing its specter to mitigate personal responsibility sends an ethically questionable precedent, even when chemically induced. Experts warn drawing simplistic causal lines between substances and complex behaviors risks dangerous assumptions.
So without dismissing psychosis outright, applying rigorous skepticism seems prudent when it conveniently appears to explain the inexplicable. Because absolving trauma requires deeper reckoning than scapegoating any single compound when human actions depend on multitudes of variables in body, mind, and world.
Assessing the Psychosis Narrative
While psychosis could explain inexplicable violent acts, several factors make that defense highly questionable in this case.
First, the sheer brutality and duration of the attack contradicts psychosis. She stabbed O'Melia over 100 times, so forcefully that the knife bent, and kept attacking despite his pleading.
That reflects sustained rage, not transient psychotic disorientation. She also had the clarity of mind to switch knives mid-assault by returning to the kitchen for more weapons. Not random psychotic flailing but deliberate viciousness.
Furthermore, the ability to then kill the presumably frightened and defensive dog also signals cognizance, not delusion. Luring the confused pet within striking range demonstrates cunning presence of mind, not detached mania.
In addition, her self-inflicted wounds were, by all indications, intentional but not life-threatening. This strongly suggests a bid to support an insanity narrative, not deranged madness.
True psychotic breaks rarely manifest such complex chained actions. More commonly they erupt suddenly in erratic, self-destructive outbursts that the perpetrator cannot suppress. But her behavior shows eerie awareness and self-control.
If Spejcher had no idea what she was doing as claimed, why not turn the knife on herself initially rather than the boyfriend she ostensibly cared for? Real psychosis doesn't selectively strike only others for "self-defense." This rationalization seems absurd.
Also, no previous violent tendencies or mental health issues were noted. There is no credible evidence heavy cannabis use alone can spontaneously generate such vicious psychosis in stable people. So what's the alternative explanation?
While we can't know motives, the totality of facts implies this may be an intricately plotted murder dressed up as a cannabis-induced insanity episode. The improbable perfect storm defense.
But designating crazed "reefer madness" as the scapegoat circumvents justice. This sets dangerous precedent allowing violent criminals to escape consequences by baselessly pinning blame on substances.
If this woman was so detached from reality that she slaughtered loved ones obeying delusional directives, how can she be trusted unsupervised in society after a mere 4 years? Sane people don't obey phantom commands to kill, no matter the substance.
Either cannabis caused unprecedented psychotic insanity warranting confinement, or this brilliant telehealth professional perpetrated intentional slaughter complete with cover story. Neither bodes well for public safety, nor for rational cannabis policy moving forward.
The Sticky Bottom line
Ultimately, we may never know the full truth behind this tragic case. The living cannot speak for the dead or reliably read the hearts of others. Justice feels out of reach.
In that absence, questionable narratives emerge. The "reefer madness" psychosis claim provides a conveniently absolving story, but should be considered skeptically given thin evidence cannabis alone could drive such senseless brutality.
Yet this explanation, however improbable, now carries legal weight in precedent, inviting similar miscarriages down the road. Whenever a defense needs excuse for the inexcusable, "the weed made them do it."
But scapegoating cannabis risks regressing sane policy by further stigmatizing nature's healing gift. It harms not just the plant's reputation but the cause of justice and truth itself.
Some posit dark compulsions gripped this woman's troubled mind - compulsions no substance generates, only liberates where latent. Perhaps in her psychology, permission was granted that night by circumstance. But the law frames inner shadows as outer bogeymen, absolving deeper responsibility.
Either way, the sheer brutality reveals someone who should never walk free again unsupervised. Call it psychosis, evil, or illness - society must be protected from those who slaughter loved ones based on delusions. That cannot be cured in four years.
So while we ruminate endlessly on "why", the lessons remain simpler - exercise caution in judging friends or lovers too quickly. And advocate for justice that serves truth uncompromisingly, not expedient narratives.
The rest lies beyond our grasp. We piece together meaning as best we can, blind men probing the shape of shadows. But the light of wisdom and compassion may yet illuminate even grim confusion.