Although California was the first U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and legalized it for recreational use 20 years later, a woman accused of killing her boyfriend and her dog nevertheless argued that her use of the drug was to blame for her violent behavior.
Specifically, 32-year-old Bryn Spejcher claimed that the victim, Chad O’Melia, pressured her to smoke from his water pipe in May 2018, which triggered a “cannabis-induced psychosis” that led her to stab him more than 100 times, kill her dog and begin stabbing herself, which she was reportedly still doing when police arrived at the scene.
Bryn Spejcher, the Californian woman who was found guilty in December of involuntary manslaughter after killing her boyfriend during a #cannabis-induced psychosis, was sentenced to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and no prison time.https://t.co/OgdOlr3bOx
— NTD News (@NTDNews) January 26, 2024
Expert witnesses during the trial convinced prosecutors to reduce the severity of charges against Spejcher from second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter and, despite the fact that the reduced charges could still carry a penalty of up to four years in prison, Judge David Worley decided to grant her a probated sentence and just 100 hours of community service.
The outcome amounted to “a terrible miscarriage of justice,” according to Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Audry Nafziger, who expressed hope that other judges do not similarly consider this case a precedent for future sentencing hearings.
“We do not let people off the hook for drinking and hurting people,” she said. “People are convicted of being intoxicated and harming others and they, rightly, go to jail.”
Nafziger acknowledged that “marijuana-induced psychosis” is a real, if rare, phenomenon, and predicted that this ruling will embolden other defense attorneys to make similar arguments in future trials.
The victim’s father, Sean O’Melia, agreed.
“I think [Worley] set an absolutely terrible precedent in the state of California where it’s OK to kill somebody after you smoke marijuana,” he said.
A family friend insisted that O’Melia’s mother died as a result of her grief over her son’s brutal death. Lu Madison led a protest outside of the court following the judge’s sentencing decision.
“So she stabbed someone to death and she got zero jail time,” Madison declared.
Nafziger suggested that the criminal justice system and society in general would benefit from a reckoning over how the drug has been treated in recent years.
“So what that really speaks to me with this case is the idea that we’re really in the infancy of understanding the dangerousness of marijuana,” she said.