Christopher Pittman faces trial in adult court in South Carolina of killing his grandparents in 2001, when he was 12 years old. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could be sent to prison for life. While prosecutors portray him as a troubled killer, his defenders say the killings occurred for a reason beyond the boy’s control – a reaction to the antidepressant Zoloft, a drug he had started taking for depression not long before the slayings, reports the New York Times.
Such defenses, which have been used before, have rarely succeeded. And most medical experts do not believe there is a link between antidepressants and acts of extreme violence. But the Pittman case has attracted special attention because it is among the first to arise amid a national debate over the safety of antidepressant use in children and teenagers. Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft, has helped the county solicitor who is prosecuting Pittman. Plaintiffs’ lawyers from Houston and Los Angeles, who between them have brought numerous civil lawsuits against Pfizer and other antidepressant makers, have signed onto the defense team. Groups opposed to pediatric antidepressant use have also championed the boy’s case, which is being played out in Chester, S.C., a small town near the North Carolina border.