After drinking 5 or 6 glasses of wine, Julie Bronson downed an Ambien sleeping pill. At some point, she then got into a car and ran over three family members in their front yard. 18-month-old Ava Lopez, who was with her mother as she did yard work, suffered severe brain damage.
Bronson got off on probation using the controversial “Ambien defense“:
Bronson is far from the first person to have acted strangely and without memory while using a therapeutic dose of Ambien, testified Dr. Janci Lindsay, a biochemist and toxicology expert hired by the defense to review the case. In 2008, the company changed its patient brochure to more explicitly warn users that side-effects in some cases have included sleep-walking, sleep-eating, sleep-driving, sleep-sex and sleep-talking on the phone.
Some 44 million Americans are Ambien pill poppers, and all across the country the “Ambien defense” is being used in criminal cases. The most famous was a 2006 case of Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman from Rhode Island and son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. And the Mercury News yesterday reported on the case of Kevin Robertson in another Ambien acquittal.
Is this a case of juries running amok, or is there a serious problem with the medication? Hard to say — Bronson had taken alcohol even though instructed not to. And Robertson had previously been involved in an Ambien-related accident.