Prozac Defense Used In Fayette Case — (Lexington Herald-Leader)

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Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)

March 21, 1991

Author: Thomas Tolliver Herald-Leader staff writer[]

Prozac, a controversial anti-depressant drug blamed as a triggering agent in violent acts nationwide, was used as a defense by a Winchester man who stood trial this week in Fayette Circuit Court.

It was the first time in Fayette County that the use of Prozac had been used as a defense. Though the jury convicted Cecil Pergram, his attorney claimed a victory, saying he thought the jury believed the Prozac claim.

Defense attorney Lee Rowland noted that his client was charged with second- degree burglary, a felony, but was convicted of the lesser offense of first-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. Perkins received a $250 fine.

Testimony said that Pergram, 50, forced his way into the home of Willard Roberts, 1424 Anniston Drive, on Dec. 4 and began beating Roberts with a flashlight. Roberts shot Pergram in the leg, forcing him to flee the house. Roberts was dating Pergram’s ex-wife, who was inside the home at the time.

Rowland argued that Pergram was unable to control his behavior, a side effect of having taken Prozac for two months before the burglary. Pergram had been prescribed Prozac to treat depression.

Rowland said after the verdict yesterday afternoon that he thought the jury factored the Prozac defense into its decision.

But Roger West, assistant Fayette commonwealth’s attorney and the prosecutor in the case, did not think the jury believed the Prozac defense.

“Had they believed in the Prozac defense they would have found him not guilty,” West said. “It’s obvious they didn’t buy it.”

“There’s no medical or scientific link between Prozac and hostile or aggressive behavior toward others,” West said.

Pergram is not the first person in Kentucky to try the Prozac defense.

The attorney for a Bowling Green woman convicted of assault in the March 1990 shooting of a doctor there claimed during the trial that side effects of Prozac caused his client to commit the crime.

Prozac, manufactured by the Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co., has been the subject of numerous lawsuits across the country by people who claim the
drug drove their loved ones to commit suicide and violent crimes against others.

One such suit was filed by the son of Joseph Wesbecker, the Louisville man who killed eight people and wounded 12 others in a downtown Louisville printing plant in September 1989 before fatally shooting himself.

Wesbecker had been taking Prozac to combat depression.

The lawsuit alleges that Lilly failed to adequately test Prozac and knew or should have known it was not safe for use by the public to treat depression.

Lilly maintains the drug is safe and denied the allegations in the lawsuits.

Record Number:  9101110021