By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - A pregnant South Carolina woman drove a minivan with her three children into the ocean off a Florida beach in March because low blood sugar made her act irrationally, her lawyer said on Thursday.
Ebony Wilkerson, 33, faces charges of attempted murder and child abuse for each of the three children in the van, then aged 3, 9, and 10. She gave birth to her fourth child while in jail, and her children are all now in state custody, her lawyer said.
"She’s driving irrationally because she has a medical condition," said Craig Dyer, Wilkerson's court-appointed attorney. "It could happen to anybody."
He said the diagnosis fit with reports at the scene in Daytona Beach that Wilkerson said she was seeing angels and spots in front of her eyes, and with her children's accounts of her seeming to be sleepwalking.
First responders tested Wilkerson’s blood sugar within 10 minutes of the incident, Dyer said, recording a level of 44 milligrams per deciliter - well below the general threshold of abnormally low blood sugar of 70 milligrams per deciliter, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Wilkerson, who was 27 weeks pregnant at the time of the incident and at a stage when gestational diabetes can occur, received an injection on the beach that nearly tripled her blood sugar levels within 25 minutes, Dyer said.
Wilkerson, whose children were not seriously injured in the incident, wouldn’t be the first to use abnormal blood sugar levels as a defense in a criminal case.
The Colorado Supreme Court in 2005 upheld the use of the defense in the case of a diabetic man who hit his wife with a hammer before driving over her, according to the Denver Post.
A Florida judge in 1996 allowed an admitted burglar to use an insanity defense - ultimately unsuccessful - arguing that high blood sugar from cotton candy can induce psychosis in a diabetic, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
(Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Eric Beech)