16 Year Old Kills Two People: At Pretrial Hearing, Discussion of Lawsuit Against Maker of Cymbalta
Paragraph one reads: "Several motions were heard Wednesday at the pretrial hearing of a Loogootee teen charged with double homicide, but one motion points toward a possible civil lawsuit against a drug maker of a popular antidepressant."
Paragraph three reads: "The motion stems from a suicidal episode Baker had about a week before the shootings in which Baker was prescribed the antidepressant Cymbalta after being treated at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and Gateway Medical Center, St. Louis."
VANDALIA Several motions were heard Wednesday at the pretrial hearing of a Loogootee teen charged with double homicide, but one motion points toward a possible civil lawsuit against a drug maker of a popular antidepressant.
Clifford Baker, the teen charged with the Aug. 4 shooting deaths of 53-year-old Debra Tish and 60-year-old John Mahon, appeared in Fayette County Circuit Court where his attorney, Monroe McWard, filed a motion for the appointment of a forensic pharmacologist regarding the medications Baker was prescribed prior to the day of the early morning shootings.
The motion stems from a suicidal episode Baker had about a week before the shootings in which Baker was prescribed the antidepressant Cymbalta after being treated at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and Gateway Medical Center, St. Louis.
McWard noted such antidepressants have been known to cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people under the age of 18. Baker turned 16 last week. Safety information about the drug warns of the risk and, therefore, states it is approved for those 18 and older.
McWard said he intends to have the pharmacologist discuss what happened to Baker after taking the drug and “whether he understood what he was doing and whether it led to insanity.”
Judge Michael McHaney, however, questioned how a forensic pharmacologist can render an opinion of insanity.
“He can render psychosis,” McWard said.
McWard added Baker’s father discovered six Cymbalta pills missing the day of the shootings.
McWard is looking for the pharmacologist to support the theory the medication induces violent and suicidal behavior.
Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel questioned McWard’s motive for hiring a pharmacologist and whether the state should pay the expert’s fee.
Friedel said while McWard, who is working pro bono, might be a legitimate reason for paying the fee, the attorney was retained privately by a third party. He added it is a different matter if McWard is planning to use the testimony for a potential civil lawsuit and said the state shouldn’t be asked to pay for someone to be used in a civil suit.
McWard said during the hearing he is looking at a potential civil suit against the manufacturer of Cymbalta in which Baker was misprescribed the medication.
“Why should Fayette County be ordered to pay for your expert?” asked McHaney.
McWard responded if he can’t find a funding source to pay for a pharmacologist for the criminal trial, he would have to remove himself from the case or not be prepared for trial.
McHaney complained the motion didn’t spell out a fee schedule or contain a preliminary report supporting the theory.
“Is the theory based on research or is it junk science?” he said.
While McHaney added he wasn’t ruling the theory junk science, he denied the motion for lack of written evidence to support it at this time. He, however, told McWard he could amend the motion and bring it back before the court.
Later in the hearing, McWard said there is a possibility Baker’s father may be able to pay for the pharmacologist and the request may be withdrawn.
In another motion, McHaney ordered Baker be allowed to view written discovery in the case at the Madison Juvenile Detention Center where he is being held, provided the documents not be distributed to anyone, including family.
A motion to preserve evidence also was granted. The motion filed by the defendant asks that blood drawn from Baker on Aug. 4 not be destroyed. McWard said during the hearing he plans to use the sample to determine whether Cymbalta was present in his system. McHaney granted the motion provided the hospital has not already destroyed the sample or consumed it during other testing.
A hearing date of Feb. 2 was set for 1 p.m. regarding two motions to suppress statements. Because the state needed time to review the motions, the jury trial originally scheduled to begin Jan. 31 was moved to 8:30 a.m. April 4. While granting the later trial date, McHaney warned there will be no further delays in the case.
Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or email@example.com.