for the boy charged with the 2001 deaths of his grandparents
in Chester County are seeking all documents a drug company may
have provided the prosecution team as well as others the
company may be hiding.
On Friday, Chester County Public Defender Yale Zamore filed
the second of two motions this week seeking any information
given to 6th Circuit Solicitor John Justice or prosecution
witnesses by Pfizer, the maker of the antidepressant Zoloft,
to help in his defense of Christopher Pittman.
Pittman had been taking antidepressants, including Zoloft,
for about five weeks before fatally shooting Joe Frank Pittman
and Joy Roberts Pittman while they slept in their rural
Chester County home in November 2001. He later set the house
on fire and fled to Cherokee County in a family car. He was 12
at the time.
Now 15, Pittman is being tried as an adult and could
receive up to life in prison if convicted. His trial is
scheduled to begin June 14.
In one of the motions, Zamore alleges a document provided
to one of the prosecution's key medical experts by a Pfizer
attorney in January 2002 was only made available to the
defense team this month.
In addition to other similar documents provided by Pfizer
representatives, defense lawyers also are seeking to use
Pfizer documents revealed in other cases but which are still
confidential. They allege these documents could help prove
that Zoloft sparked a psychotic reaction that led to Pittman's
"If Pfizer has been providing stuff to the solicitor, as
I'm led to believe, then we're entitled to it ourselves to aid
in our defense," Zamore said. "Plus, there's a possibility
Pfizer has things that they've also not given to the
Justice said he's been provided documents from private
attorneys who've handled cases for drug companies, but not
that much from companies themselves. He called the motions
vague and said he's not sure what the defense is after.
Karen Barth Menzies, a Los Angeles-based lawyer, has fought
civil product liability cases against antidepressant makers
for years. An application was filed this week to add her to
the defense team.
"A multibillion dollar company is using its power and
influence to make sure this kid gets convicted to protect the
reputation of its drug," Menzies said about Pfizer. "They give
only the good side and continue to hide the bad side. I know
the bad side, and that's why I'm being brought in."
Menzies is the second attorney who specializes in
antidepressant cases to request permission to help in
Pittman's defense. Andy Vickery, a Houston-based attorney,
already has filed an application to join the team. Circuit
Court Judge Paul Short Jr., who will preside over the trial,
has said he would not approve Vickery's request until meeting
with him in person. The same will likely be true for
Her firm, Baum Hedlund, has handled cases against
antidepressant makers since 1990, including representing the
widow of 1960s rock star, Del Shannon, and the family of
comedian Phil Hartman and his wife, Brynn.
Justice was unaware of Menzies' application but said it
does not intimidate him.
"They can bring on Johnnie Cochran," Justice said. "I don't
A hearing on the discovery motions is expected to be held
next week at the Chester County Courthouse, although no date
has been set. Depending on when the hearing is scheduled,
Zamore expects Menzies, Vickery, or maybe both, to be in
Jason Cato • 329-4071