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Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)
November 21, 1990
Author: Henrietta Charles / Staff Writer
A 75-year-old La Mirada woman, who reportedly was suffering the ill effects of a controversial anti-depressant when she shot and killed her husband last year, was convicted Tuesday of voluntary manslaughter.
Mildred Marie Johnson, who faces a possible maximum 13 years in state prison, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 3 by Norwalk Superior Court Judge Robert Armstrong. The judge has the discretion of placing Johnson on probation. She remains free on bail.
Johnson’s attorney, Felipa Richland, said the case is believed to be the first in the nation using the so-called Prozac defense.
Prozac is a popular, new anti-depressant that researchers have said can cause some patients to become violent and suicidal after two to five weeks of use, Richland said.
El Sayyid Nassair, the man who allegedly gunned down Jewish Defense League founder Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York earlier this month, reportedly was taking Prozac at the time.
Richland said Johnson, who was being treated for depression and several physical ailments, had been taking Prozac for 3 1/2 weeks when she shot her husband twice and killed him on Sept. 4, 1989.
Deputy District Attorney Linda Chilstrom had sought a first-degree murder conviction against Johnson. However, both attorneys said the jurors were apparently swayed by Johnson’s age and expert testimony about her state of mind and convicted her on a lesser charge.
Johnson shot her 74-year-old husband, Alfred, in the back and chest at close range as he lay in bed sleeping at their La Mirada home. Chilstrom said Johnson then sat on the stairs until morning and did not call authorities even as her husband was dying.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies finally responded after Johnson called her son in Torrance and told him she had shot his father.
Investigators testified that she told them she shot her husband because she was afraid he was going to place her in a mental institution and she didn’t want to go.
Richland said elderly murder suspects are rare.
“Usually euthanasia (mercy killing) is the typical elderly murder,” Richland explained. “With depression, you usually see more passive behavior. You usually don’t have the energy to kill.”
Johnson’s relatives testified during her trial that she had suffered increasingly from irritability, anxiety and delusional tendencies since using Prozac.
At the time of the shooting, neighbors described the Johnson marriage as that of an ill-tempered and frightened woman and a henpecked man.
Record Number: 9011210046