Friday, Feb. 04, 2005
By BRUCE SMITH
CHARLESTON, S.C. - A psychiatrist testified at a boy's murder trial Friday that the antidepressant Zoloft caused the 12-year-old to kill his grandparents with a shotgun and burn their house down.
"I think there is a very strong case to say the drug has caused a problem," said Dr. David Healy, an expert from Britain. "I'm saying at the time this murder happened, he did not have the capacity to know right from wrong."
Healy testified for the defense at the trial of Christopher Pittman, now 15. He is charged with killing Joe Pittman, 66, and Joy Pittman, 62, while they slept in 2001.
The defense has argued that the boy is not guilty because Zoloft made him unable to tell right from wrong. Prosecutors have countered that Pittman was angry at his grandparents for disciplining him for choking another student on a school bus.
On Thursday, a prosecution expert testified that it was anger, not Zoloft, that prompted Pittman to pull the trigger.
About a month before the slayings, Pittman was hospitalized after threatening to kill himself. He was prescribed the antidepressant Paxil and was later put on Zoloft.
Last October, the Food and Drug Administration ordered Zoloft and other antidepressants to carry "black box" warnings - the government's strongest warning short of a ban - that say they can raise the risk of suicidal behavior in children.