Jurors began deliberating Monday in the murder trial of a 15-year-old boy who claims the antidepressant Zoloft drove him to kill his grandparents three years ago.
The trial has been billed as the first case involving a youngster who says an antidepressant caused him to kill. The trial also comes at a time of heightened scrutiny over the use of antidepressants among children.
Defense attorneys urged the jury Monday to send a message to the nation by blaming Zoloft for the killings by 15-year-old Christopher Pittman. They said the negative effects of Zoloft are more pronounced in youngsters, and the drug affected Pittman so he did not know right from wrong.
"We do not convict children for murder when they have been ambushed by chemicals that destroy their ability to reason," attorney Paul Waldner said.
Pittman has not denied carrying out the slayings. He is charged as an adult in the November 2001 murders of Joe Pittman, 66, and his wife Joy, 62. If convicted, he could get 30 years to life in prison.
Zoloft is the most widely prescribed antidepressant in the United States with 32.7 million prescriptions written in 2003. Last October, the Food and Drug Administration ordered Zoloft and other antidepressants to carry "black box" warnings — the government's strongest warning short of a ban — about an increased risk of suicidal behavior in children.
Pittman threatened to kill himself about a month before the slayings. He also ran away from home.