'Ambien defense' invoked in murder charge

Oct. 26, 2009 at 12:34 AM
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DENVER, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A Denver man who allegedly battered his friend to death is relying on a sleeping-pill defense, his attorney said.

Andrew McClay, 22, has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly bludgeoning Nicole Burns to death in April, The Denver Post reported Sunday. McClay had taken five Ambien pills, along with whiskey and Aleve pills, and says he does not remember what happened in his Littleton, Colo., apartment when he killed his best friend, McClay's lawyer, Karen Sue Steinhauser, said.

"The circumstances of what happened that night are puzzling, and I don't know if those questions will ever be answered," Steinhauser said.

Ambien is a sedative hypnotic for the treatment of insomnia and can cause myriad severe behavioral disorders, the newspaper said, citing a report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. No more than one Ambien is to be taken in a 24-hour period and it should not be taken with alcohol.

McClay said he took five Ambien pills, "well above the dosage," FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley said.

The case is one of an increasing number of "Ambien-defense" cases in which defendants say that because they were under the influence of Ambien, they were not responsible for violent crimes.

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