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September 15, 2015
The Associated Press
LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska man convicted of killing his girlfriend in 2002 is blaming an antidepressant for his actions and requesting his case be re-examined by a judge.
Randall Robbins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Brittany Eurek and was sentenced to 40 to 60 years in prison.
Robbins claims the antidepressant Zoloft, which was prescribed to him for depression in 2002 by a Lincoln doctor, played a key role in what was supposed to be a murder-suicide, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1idyDj0 ) reported.
Attorney Rob Kortus of the Nebraska Commission of Public Advocacy, who’s representing Robbins, said DNA testing conducted this year shows genetics prevents Robbins from metabolizing Zoloft as intended by its manufacturer. Kortus contends that can lead to violent outbursts and suicidal behavior, something the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of in 2007, in young adults between 18 and 24 during initial treatment.
In 2009, Robbins successfully sued drug manufacturer Pfizer and the doctor who prescribed Zoloft to him.
He requested DNA testing in 2011, without providing a reason, and the request initially was denied but came up again in a motion for post-conviction relief. Robbins then specifically sought DNA Drug Reaction Profile Testing, using the state’s DNA Testing Act, to determine whether he was among some 10 percent of people who are poor metabolizers of Zoloft.
Kortus plans to argue that the test results indicate that Robbins should be released from prison, granted a new trial or re-sentenced with the new evidence taken into consideration.
A judge could find that the evidence doesn’t rise to the level to warrant any of those steps.
Briefs are expected to be submitted in October and November.
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Convicted killer sues Pfizer for millions — (The Lincoln Journal Star)
By LORI PILGER, Lincoln Journal Star
Friday, Jun 26, 2009
“Randall Robbins II wants $1 million from the maker of the antidepressant and the Lincoln doctor who prescribed it to him for every year he spends in prison.”
“He was 17 when he killed Brittany Eurek in 2002.”
A convicted murderer who strangled the teenage mother of his child has sued Pfizer, alleging the Zoloft he was taking led him to try to commit suicide and then take his girlfriend’s life.
Randall Robbins II wants $1 million from the maker of the antidepressant and the Lincoln doctor who prescribed it to him for every year he spends in prison.
He was 17 when he killed Brittany Eurek in 2002.
But, if the now 25-year-old wants to pursue the suit, he’ll need to find an attorney to take it on or do it himself.
Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront rejected a request from Robbins to appoint an attorney to represent him and to let him file the case without paying the fees and costs.
If Robbins doesn’t come up with $79 or appeal the ruling within 30 days, the case will be dismissed.
In the suit filed Tuesday, he said Pfizer failed to warn him of side effects of Zoloft.
“Pfizer knew or should have known the effects, including that R.R. might commit or attempt suicide and murder…,” he said.
Robbins said the drug intensified his agitation, suicidal desires and irritability and decreased his ability to control impulses.
He seeks $2 million each from Pfizer and his doctor for emotional distress and physical pain suffered. He also wants $1 million from each of them for each year he’s spent incarcerated and away from his family.
Robbins argues that Pfizer and his Lincoln doctor both were negligent.
At 10:49 on the night of June 1, 2002, Robbins’ mother called 911, saying her son had summoned her. When she got home, she said, she found Brittany Eurek in Randall Robbins’ bedroom, not breathing and with red marks on her neck.
Police arrived at the Euclid Avenue duplex he and his mother and sister shared to find Robbins crying with a cloth over his head, saying, “arrest me, arrest me.”
They found Eurek on his bedroom floor. She was pronounced dead at the hospital, despite attempts to revive her.
In court records, Robbins said his doctor prescribed Zoloft for depression earlier in the year. He said his symptoms worsened and he attempted suicide by hanging himself with a belt. Then, on June 1, he held Eurek’s neck until she passed out and used the same belt to assure she was dead, the records say.
The Food and Drug Administration now advises parents that such antidepressants as Zoloft can increase suicidal thoughts and actions in some children and teens, according to its Web site.
But, the FDA says, suicidal thoughts and actions also can be caused by the depression such drugs are used to treat.
It says nothing about the drugs causing an increase in homicidal thoughts.
When asked to comment, Chris Loder in media relations at Pfizer Inc. defended Zoloft in an e-mail Friday, calling it a safe and effective medication that has been used to treat millions with depression and anxiety disorders.
And, he said, the label fully complies with all FDA-mandated requirements, including information on adverse events.
“We continuously monitor the postmarketing safety of our medicines and evaluate all available data to ascertain any signal of increased risk. Pfizer’s evaluation of Zoloft data never has revealed any signal of an increased risk of violence related to either use or discontinuation of use of Zoloft.”
Robbins is serving a 40- to 60-year sentence at the Nebraska State Penitentiary after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
He will be eligible for parole in 2022.
Reach Lori Pilger at 473-7237 or email@example.com.
High court rejects Lincoln killer’s plea for new trial based on Zoloft theory — (The Lincoln Journal Star)
The Nebraska Supreme Court rejected a Lincoln man’s appeal for a new trial for strangling his girlfriend to death in 2002, saying in an opinion Friday that a lower court judge shouldn’t have approved DNA testing in his case.
Unlike most cases where inmates contend DNA testing on evidence in the crime could clear them of the crime, Randall Robbins hadn’t argued someone else killed Brittany Eurek.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, in a deal with the state, and got 40 to 60 years in prison for it.
In 2015, the testing placed Robbins in a below-average category, meaning more of the drug works its way to the brain, making him more susceptible to side effects, such as the increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in teens and young adults.
Based on the information, Kortus contended that Robbins likely would not have pleaded to second-degree murder and would have sought an unintentional manslaughter charge instead or gone to trial had he known.
But last year Lancaster County Judge Steven Burns found Robbins wasn’t entitled to a new trial and said there was nothing in the record to suggest he was experiencing a side effect of the drug when he killed Eurek.
On June 1, 2002, Robbins became enraged and grabbed Eurek around her throat and squeezed. Then looped a belt around her neck and held it tight for about five minutes, according to the evidence.
The judge said he had a history of physical aggression when he wasn’t on Zoloft, and hadn’t taken it on the day of the homicide.
On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court not only said he doesn’t deserve a new trial, but also said that he shouldn’t have gotten the testing under the act at all.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Michael Heavican said a logical reading of the DNA Testing Act does not allow a court to grant DNA testing like this.
Unlike the Beatrice 6 case, where the Supreme Court granted DNA testing, the test Robbins sought was on his own blood and couldn’t exclude him from being a contributor to DNA found during the investigation into a homicide, the chief justice said.
Robbins admits he killed Eurek, Heavican said.
And, he said, the court finds no merit in the argument that this case involves an issue of identity because Robbins was a ‘different person’ while on Zoloft.
Robbins’ dose was doubled after his arrest without any ill effects, and his trial attorney testified that Robbins described Zoloft as calming him down and wondered then if not taking it the day of the killing caused him to be more agitated, according to the opinion.
“Because the act is intended to assist in proving the innocence of a convicted person through establishing the person’s identity, it cannot be said that evidence from the DNA testing probably would have produced a substantially different result at trial,” Heavican said.
With that, the court found the DNA testing Robbins sought was not within the purview of the DNA Testing Act and sent the case back to Lancaster County District Court to be dismissed.
Robbins is serving his sentence at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.