INTERVIEW: Southwest Virginia man cites steroids, Starbucks for wife's murder

By Diane Walker - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A southwest Virginia man says he killed his wife because he abused steroids and was addicted to Starbucks coffee. Philip Kingery pled guilty to second-degree murder in Franklin County last week. He killed his wife in May of last year, dumped her body in a barrel, and took off to meet a woman with whom he was having an online affair. Kingery was arrested a month later in Missouri. Here to talk about this strange defense strategy is our legal expert Steve Benjamin.

Diane Walker: Why do you suppose the judge didn't buy this strange defense? He said he had a $200 a week addiction to caffeine and that combined with prescription drugs caused him to snap.

Steve Benjamin: $200 a week at Starbuck's is not all that much coffee.

Diane Walker: Okay.

Steve Benjamin: You know? And please understand, I don't think anybody asserted this as a defense. So it wasn't a question of the judge buying it or not buying it. In fact, the conviction was a result of what I think was a very good plea for the prosecution. He got a certain conviction, no appeal, and a 25-year sentence, which is essentially a life sentence for a 48-year-old man.

Diane Walker: I'm curious to know what the elements are of a diminished capacity. Obviously, perhaps he was thinking this would prove that his capacity was diminished because of his use of caffeine and drugs.

Steve Benjamin: Of coffee?

Diane Walker: But it didn't work. What do you need to prove that in court?

Steve Benjamin: Well, first, everyone should understand that the defense of diminished capacity is not a legal defense in Virginia and when I talk about diminished capacity, what I'm talking about is a person's decreased ability to appreciate or control the wrongfulness of certain conduct. But that's not a defense in Virginia, so it really doesn't matter, and in this case, I think factually, it never could have been supported. It's true, Diane, that some drugs can alter and compromise a person's ability to control dark impulses, but not caffeine. And not this type of steroid. You know, we hear times about anabolic steroids, the kind of steroids used by body-builders, for example.

Diane Walker: And that was not used here.

Steve Benjamin: No, this was an anti-inflammatory steroid and there's no increased violence associated with that kind of medication. If I had to guess, what I think may have been occurring here is that this individual who, by all accounts I've seen, was a perfectly normal fellow with no signs of violence in his life, in a horrible moment killed his wife and what I suspect he may be doing, in trying to blame caffeine and medication, is perhaps making a personal justification to himself.

Diane Walker: His way of rationalizing and accepting what he did.

Steve Benjamin: Yes, that makes a lot more sense than thinking that anybody really believes this was a legal defense. I don't think his lawyer believe it was a defense. I think he was trying to give some type of explanation, one that perhaps was more helpful to his client than to anyone else.

Diane Walker: Thank you so much, Steve, and for putting that into perspective. We appreciate it. 

See the video at right for the full interview.

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