Christopher Pittman, 15, is testing the “Zoloft defense” in a Charleston, S.C., courtroom, says the Christian Science Monitor. On trial for the 2001 shotgun murders of his grandparents he claims that a switch between two antidepressants transformed him “into a juvenile Jekyll and Hyde, haunted by and hostage to his nightmares come to life,” the Monitor says.
The Pittman trial is testing the public’s perception of personal responsibility in the gap between a diagnosed mental affliction and its treatment. Antidepressants have been under fire for increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. The Pittman case is offering a lens on an intensifying debate, and a test of how far Americans are willing to go in blaming pills for personal actions. A similar “Prozac defense” was used in 80 cases in the 1990s. It wasn’t until 2000 that a Connecticut judge acknowledged an antidepressant’s potential role in a crime and acquitted the defendant. There have been two successful Zoloft defenses in the past two years in California and Wyoming. Some defense lawyers are specializing in Zoloft defenses, leading drug company Pfizer to counter their effort with the “Zoloft Prosecutor’s Manual.”