After nearly two years in legal limbo, the case of a Chester boy
charged with the double murder of his grandparents could soon go to
John Justice, 6th Circuit solicitor, plans to take the case
before a grand jury in October. If the boy is indicted, his trial
could begin by the end of the year, Justice said, possibly in
Grandparents shot in head
The boy, who was 12 at the time, is charged with shooting Joe
Frank Pittman, 66, and Joy Roberts Pittman, 62, in the head while
they slept in their Slick Rock Road home late Nov. 28, 2001. Police
say the boy, who is not being named because of his age, then set the
house on fire and fled to Cherokee County in his grandfather's
Since the June family court hearing where a judge waived the boy
up to adult court, both sides had been awaiting a final report from
the defense's psychiatrist. Justice said he received a copy of the
report last week.
"For the first time, there's no legal reason not to move
forward," Justice said.
In criminal court, the boy faces the possibility of spending the
rest of his life in adult prison. While the law is sometimes
interpreted as 30 years or life, Justice said judges have
consistently handed down sentences of between 30 years and life.
The last criminal court sessions in Chester County this year are
scheduled for the weeks of Nov. 10 and Nov. 17. Justice said if the
trial cannot begin then, he may request a special session or hold
the trial early next year.
Yale Zamore, the Chester County public defender who is
representing the boy, said Wednesday that the grand jury first must
decide whether there is enough evidence in the case to move forward
"This is a very difficult case, and it's being handled very
carefully on both sides," Zamore said. "All cases should be handled
carefully. But with something as emotionally charged, as sensitive
and as serious as this, you want to be extra careful."
The boy's father, Joe D. Pittman, said he's not been kept up to
date on the time table of his son's case. Pittman said he was not
aware of the impending grand jury proceedings or that the trial
could begin later this year.
"Nobody tells me anything," Pittman said Wednesday from his home
He's now in the process of hiring a private Columbia attorney to
help with his son's defense.
"I don't want to tick anybody off, but I want the best for my
son," Pittman said.
In large part, Pittman said he is pursuing additional legal help
to make sure his son gets the best defense he can using the
medication angle. Pittman and others believe the boy was driven to
the violent act because of an adverse reaction to prescription
antidepressants. Diagnosed as clinically depressed, the boy had been
on a regime of Paxil and Zoloft in the days and weeks prior to the
Since that time, the British government has banned Paxil from use
in children due to increased tendencies of suicide and violence. In
June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched studies into
the same issues here, and even issued a warning to doctors reminding
them these antidepressants are not approved for use in children.
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