Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/9/2011 (3212 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg teen was driven to commit an unprovoked murder because of the adverse affects of taking Prozac, a Manitoba judge has ruled.
The boy, who was 16 at the time of the September 2009 attack inside a West St. Paul home, won a major legal victory Friday based on the impact the drug apparently had on his actions.
Provincial court Judge Robert Heinrichs agreed to keep the case in youth court, where he faces a maximum sentence of four more years behind bars on the charge of second-degree murder. The Crown wanted his case raised to adult court, where he would have received a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least seven years. Sentencing will take place on Oct. 4.
"His basic normalcy now further confirms he no longer poses a risk of violence to anyone and that his mental deterioration and resulting violence would not have taken place without exposure to Prozac," Heinrichs said in his decision.
Justice officials say this case may be the first of its kind in Manitoba and one of only a handful ever seen in Canada.
The ruling was met with jeers by the family of the victim, Seth Ottenbreit. The 15-year-old died of a single stab wound to the stomach. The family has repeatedly called on justice officials for tougher sanctions for teen killers.
Dozens of family members and friends filled the courtroom Friday afternoon, shortly after they paraded in front of the Law Courts with signs and posters showing Ottenbreit's body in his casket. Donna Noble, the victim's mother, called the accused a "cowardly murderer" and says she wanted to call attention to what she says are the relaxed attitudes to punishing young offenders.
"I wanted to stand up in court and yell, 'How dare you let him be charged as a youth?' " Laura Martin, whose daughter went to school with Ottenbreit, said outside court.
A psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Hildahl, testified earlier this year it's troubling Ottenbreit's killer hasn't been able to provide any reason for his actions. The boy, who had no criminal record, had been prescribed Prozac three months prior to the slaying. Hildahl said some studies have linked Prozac with behavioural and emotional changes in young users. Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky told court the teen's parents complained he was getting worse while taking the drug, prompting his doctor to hike the dosage.
Brodsky called an expert witness who has testified in numerous high-profile cases across North America in which killers were taking anti-depressant drugs. Dr. Peter Breggin, a New York-based psychiatrist, told court the teen's use of Prozac likely meant he wasn't in full control of his actions.
Heinrichs said Friday the use of Prozac resulted in "unique circumstances" he was forced to consider. He described how the killer went from a loving, happy-go-lucky kid to a dark, depressed drug abuser. The accused began to act out violently and even tried to harm himself on several occasions. Heinrichs said it's clear the boy's parents did the right thing in taking their concerns to his various doctors, but they were largely ignored as the Prozac dosage was only increased.
"To them it was clear his behaviour had deteriorated since going on Prozac," said Heinrichs. Since his arrest, the boy has been clean of all drugs, has expressed remorse for his actions and greatly reduced his risk to the public.
"He has none of the characteristics of a perpetrator of violence," said Heinrichs. "The prospects for rehabilitation are very good."
Ottenbreit was wounded after a dispute at the killer's home. Ottenbreit and a friend had gone over to the residence on a Sunday morning, where they got into an argument with the accused's younger brother. Ottenbreit shoved the boy, causing a chair to fall over and leave a mark on the new floor, court heard.
The accused wasn't home at the time but got angry when he found out what happened. He then invited Ottenbreit and his friend to return to the home that afternoon when he suddenly pulled out a knife from under a blanket and stabbed him once in the stomach while they all stood in the garage.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.