EXPERT REBUTS DRUG DEFENSE — (Daytona Beach News-Journal)

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Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)

April 25, 2000

Author: Jim Haug Staff Writer

During testimony about the sleeping pills and anti-depressant drug a defendant was taking before his girlfriend was bludgeoned to death, a pharmacist said Monday that none of the drugs mentioned is known to cause a violent reaction.

Assistant State Attorney Gene White called Gary Levin, a pharmacist at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, to help rebut an insanity defense for Harold Richardson, who is charged with killing Marge Smith in February 1999.

Defense Attorney Patrick Canan contends that Richardson could have been in a psychotic state at the time of murder because of the pills he was on for insomnia and depression.

Levin did agree that the Palm Coast man, 68, was prescribed an odd mix of three different kinds of sleeping pills plus an anti-depressant drug.

But I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous,” Levin said.

The pharmacist added that Richardson was given low to moderate dosages of Effexor the anti-depressant plus Trazadone, Ativan and Ambien, the sleeping medication.

If Richardson was to have had an adverse reaction to the drugs, Levin said he should have had the reaction within five days of receiving the prescription Jan. 22, 1999.  The murder occurred Feb. 5, 1999.

Upon cross-examination by Canan, Levin testified he is not a physician and cannot prescribe medication.

When the state asked him to testify, Levin said he looked for medical journal articles about the side effects of Richardson’s prescribed drugs.

Levin said it was possible but not likely that he could have overlooked some relevant research.

Dr. J. Gregory Dent of St. Augustine testified he prescribed the drugs after Richardson was hospitalized for depression in January 1999.  At the advice of Dent’s malpractice insurance company, Dent said he discontinued his treatment of Richardson when the defendant was arrested for murder.

Judge Kim Hammond said the trial should conclude today.