Judges Reduce Sentences in Latest Paxil and Prozac Criminal Cases — (Dr Peter Breggin)

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Psychiatric Drug Facts

January, 2002

In two recent criminal cases, judges have reduced the sentences for violent crimes committed under influence of antidepressants.  In each case, the judges responded to expert testimony by psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin, M.D. concerning the adverse mental and behavior effects of SSRI antidepressants, specifically Prozac and Paxil.  Both judges concluded that the medications contributed to the crimes and in post-conviction hearings they reduced the sentences of the two men.    Dr. Breggin has been an expert in other criminal and civil cases involving similar SSRI antidepressants, including Zoloft, Celexa and Luvox.

A Case of Paxil-Induced Mania and Aggression

In November 2001 in Charlestown, South Carolina, Dr. Breggin testified at a sentencing hearing before Judge Edward E. Cottinham.  A 27-year-old man with no prior history of violence pleaded guilty to charges of rape.  Dr. Breggin presented evidence that Paxil can cause mania with disinhibition and aggressive sexuality, and that a Paxil-induced Mood Disorder caused or contributed to the defendant’s actions.  Dr. Breggin described the FDA approval process and related topics.  Despite his initial skepticism, the judge concluded that Paxil did contribute to the man’s crime.  Instead of sentencing him to two consecutive life sentences with no hope of parole, he gave him a more limited 21-year sentence with actual release in 19 years.

The hearing was held in the Charleston County General Sessions Court on November 15, 2001.  The attorney for the defendant was Andrew Savage.

A Case of Prozac-Induced Violence

Earlier in 2001 in Abington, Virginia, Dr. Breggin testified in a jury trial presided over by Judge Charles H. Smith, Jr.  The case involved a man who shot his estranged wife and a deputy sheriff who was trying to protect her.  Fortunately, the victims recovered.  However, the defendant was severely wounded in the shoot out.  He faced many charges including kidnapping and malicious wounding.  At the time of the incident, he was being treated with Prozac, Remeron, and BuSpar.  Dr. Breggin testified on adverse drug reactions, drug labeling, FDA procedures, and criminal responsibility, including involuntary intoxication.  The jury found the man guilty.  Judge Smith, however, set a Virginia precedent by giving a jury instruction for involuntary intoxication.  He also expressed appreciation for Dr. Breggin’s testimony.

The sentencing hearing was held before Judge Smith in November 2001 and the judge gave the defendant a reduced sentence.  In his written opinion, Judge Smith specifically cited Dr. Breggin’s original testimony concerning the effect of the prescription drugs on the defendant’s mental condition and behavior.  The attorney for the defendant was Randall Eads.