Woman accused in mother’s slaying uses rare defense — (Daily Press)

SSRI Ed note: Judge rejects claim that Paxil caused a daughter to become violent and kill her elderly mother.

Original article no longer available

Daily Press (Virginia)

By CHRIS KAHN, Associated Press Writer

Published September 24, 2003

ROANOKE, Va. — A woman accused of beating her 83-year-old mother to death was intoxicated at the time by prescription antidepressants and shouldn’t be held criminally responsible, defense lawyers argued Wednesday in state court.

Cindy Gail Countess, 49, pleaded innocent to one count of first-degree murder in the fatal bludgeoning of Edna Dooley. She doesn’t even remember what happened the morning her mother was found bleeding on the bathroom floor, defense lawyer Anna Bagwell said.

During opening statements, Bagwell did not dispute prosecutors claims that Countess beat and stomped Dooley to death. Instead, Bagwell said she hoped to show Judge Clifford R. Weckstein “how a woman might kill her beloved mother under the influence of intoxicating substances.”
Bagwell said medical experts will show that the drugs Countess was taking created “unexpected results at unexpected times.” After the hearing, Bagwell would not name the medication Countess was taking.
The involuntary intoxication defense is a rarity in Virginia and extremely hard to prove, said William Hassan, a Fairfax lawyer who successfully used the defense several years ago.
It stems from a 1923 Virginia Supreme Court ruling that says someone can be considered involuntarily intoxicated if impaired by trickery or physician error.
“You have to show that you followed the physician’s instructions to the letter, and still you reached a level of insanity,” Hassan said.
In court Wednesday, Countess sat silently between defense lawyers in a navy blazer, her graying brown hair combed away from her eyes. She glanced at the audience with a sad, strained look as police told the judge how they found Dooley dead on the bathroom floor.
Prosecutor Alice Ekirch said that the morning of the murder, Dooley’s blood was found on her daughter’s socks and shoes.
Roanoke Police Officer M.L. Pendleton said when he began taking pictures of the house and gathering evidence, Countess told him “if she had done something to her mother, she wasn’t in the right mind,” he said.
Countess’ trial is expected to conclude on Thursday.


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The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

Woman who blames Paxil for killing her mother sentenced for murder

Wednesday, April 28, 2004  – Story last updated at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 28, 2004

By CHRIS KAHN, Associated Press Writer

ROANOKE, Va. – A woman who blames the anti-depressant Paxil for making her homicidal was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in prison for stomping her mother to death in a bathroom scuffle.

Cindy Countess, 49, said during her trial in September that she was intoxicated by the prescription drug and unable to think clearly when she killed her mother, 82-year-old Edna Dooley, on May 3, 2002.

On Wednesday, she told Circuit Court Judge Clifford R. Weckstein she still doesn’t quite remember what happened. In a rambling diatribe against some family members who want her in prison, the former model and aspiring roller skate performance artist said at the time of the fight, she was dealing with depression, breast cancer and, from caring for her semi-delusional mother, “caretaker burnout.”

“The Cindy Countess standing here right now never harmed a hair on my mother’s head,” she said.

Weckstein said he would recommend that Countess, convicted of second-degree murder, receive psychiatric care while in prison. He also ordered probation for at least 10 years after she gets out.

During the four-day trial, defense lawyers argued that Dooley sometimes hid her daughter’s Paxil. They called experts who explained how antidepressants can leave people in a state of withdrawal – making them more aggressive and possibly homicidal – if they stop their prescription.

The night she killed her mother, Countess said she’d retrieved a 30 mg tablet of Paxil after a week without medication. When mother and daughter ran into each other in the bathroom, they began to scuffle. Prosecutors said Countess stomped on her mother so hard that it left shoe prints.

Family members pleaded with Weckstein to be easy on Countess, who they say “worshipped” her parents and returned to Virginia from Nevada in 1997 to care for them.

“She’s a good hearted person,” said Countess’ sister, Norma Jean Draper.

“This tragedy has scarred both our lives and no matter what happens in your courtroom today, it will never make things better for us.”

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