Summary:

Paragraphs 2 through 5 read: "The defense's 20th and final witness, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official familiar with the effects of Zoloft and other antidepressants, was unwavering in his opinion that Christopher Pittman did not know right from wrong when he used a shotgun to kill Joe Pittman, 66, and Joy Pittman, 62, as they slept.

"Do you have an opinion as to whether on Nov. 28, 2001, this young man Christopher Pittman was involuntarily intoxicated by Zoloft?" leader defense attorney Andy Vickery asked.

"Yes, I do," Dr. Richard Kapit said. "I believe he was."


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Updated Feb. 10, 2005, 7:06 p.m. ET

CHARLESTON, S.C. ? The defense rested Thursday in the case of a 12-year-old boy who confessed to killing his grandparents but now blames an antidepressant for fueling his rage.

The defense's 20th and final witness, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official familiar with the effects of Zoloft and other antidepressants, was unwavering in his opinion that Christopher Pittman did not know right from wrong when he used a shotgun to kill Joe Pittman, 66, and Joy Pittman, 62, as they slept.

"Do you have an opinion as to whether on Nov. 28, 2001, this young man Christopher Pittman was involuntarily intoxicated by Zoloft?" leader defense attorney Andy Vickery asked.

"Yes, I do," Dr. Richard Kapit said. "I believe he was."

"Do you have an opinion," Vickery continued, "whether that involuntary intoxication by Zoloft affected his ability to form criminal intent?"

"Yes, I believe he didn't have the ability to form criminal intent," Kapit said. "The [medication] chemically induced anger in him."

Kapit, who retired from the FDA after 16 years, contacted the defense after reading about the case in August.

On cross-examination, jurors learned that Kapit has not practiced as a psychiatrist since 1984 and only met with Christopher, now 15, for three hours almost three years after the killings.

Prosecutor John Meadors used his cross-examination to remind jurors of testimony that Christopher first tried to blame the killings on a black man and later confessed to shooting his grandparents intentionally because they disciplined him.

Kapit was more argumentative with the prosecutor than other defense witnesses. He resisted Meador's efforts to establish that blaming an imaginary assailant is proof that Christopher knew what he was doing was wrong.

"Blaming someone else for something you have done is no evidence at all about whether you know right from wrong," Kapit said.

He offered the analogy of a fox fleeing a henhouse; the mere fact that the fox fled after attacking the chickens is not proof that it knew its conduct was wrong, Kapit said.

When Meadors pointed out that Christopher burned down the couple's house and told police that he was trying to cover up the killings, Kapit said that arson is a sign of mania and that much of what Christopher told people right after the killings is not reliable because of his mental state at the time.

If jurors believe it, too, and find Christopher not guilty by reason of mental disease, he likely would be confined to a forensic hospital for an undetermined period. If he is convicted of murder, Christopher faces 30 years to life in prison.

Because prosecutors bear the burden of proof, they are allowed to call witnesses to rebut issues raised by the defense. In this case, they wasted no time calling Dr. Pamela Crawford, a court-appointed forensic psychiatrist, to counter the heart of the defense's case.

Among other things, Crawford testified that:
On cross-examination, defense attorney Paul Waldner suggested that Crawford was far from being the objective evaluator that the court who assigned her the case would have wanted her to be. Crawford responded that her job was simply to determine whether Christopher knew right from wrong and whether he suffered from any mental illness that would make it impossible for him to conform to the law.

Crawford was then asked if she could say anything "good" about Christopher.

"I think I could say he had a horrific life," she said. "I think one could not help be sympathetic about his life, in terms of abandonment issues and things like that."

Closing arguments are expected to be delivered Monday.

The trial is being broadcast by Court TV and streamed live by Court TV Extra.