Son who suffocated St. Petersburg father judged insane
CLEARWATER - A Pinellas County judge ruled Wednesday that a man who suffocated his father with a pillow is not guilty by reason of insanity. Stephen Coffeen, 42, will be sent to the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee for the slaying in December 2009 of his 83-year-old father, Robert Coffeen, a World War II veteran who used a walker. Stephen Coffeen will never stand trial in the slaying because of the ruling by Pinellas Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley. A court hearing on whether he should be released from the state hospital could be scheduled in six to seven months. "At the time of the killing, the defendant did not understand the wrongfulness of his actions," Ley said. He was suffering from a mental infirmity, disease or defect, she found.The case made national headlines after a doctor suggested that the consumption of the energy drink Red Bull, along with sleep deprivation, contributed to Coffeen's temporary insanity. "This case is not about Red Bull," the judge said in court. She cited reports filed by five doctors who concluded Coffeen was legally insane at the time he killed his father. "In all of my many years of experience, and a lot of homicide cases, I have never seen a situation that was so clear cut as far as everyone agreeing," Ley said. The only legal issue facing Ley was whether to accept an agreement between the prosecution and defense, she said. "It's not a judge's job to be popular, it's a judge's job to follow the law," she said. The defendant's brother, Thomas Coffeen, insists insanity had nothing to do with the slaying and maintains his brother has no history of mental illness. Thomas Coffeen said his brother killed their father because he was jealous of Thomas' success in life. Thomas Coffeen and his attorney, Allen Allweiss, appeared at a hearing last week to raise objections to the plea deal. After Wednesday's decision, Thomas Coffeen and Allweiss expressed disappointment. He said he is sure his brother will return someday to harm him and his family. Stephen Coffeen's attorney, George Tragos, said justice was served by the judge's decision. "He's mentally ill; he's not guilty," Tragos said.
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