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15-Year-Old Sentenced to 30 Years for Murdering Grandparents

Aired February 15, 2005 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We the jury can honestly find the defendant guilty of murder.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a jury convicts a 15-year-old for murdering his own grandparents, rejecting a defense of a popular anti- depressant that made him do it. Christopher Pittman, 12-years-old when he killed his sleeping grandparents with a shotgun, is sentenced to the minimum 30 years, after tearful pleas for mercy by his family.

And now exclusive, Christopher Pittman's father, Joseph Pittman speaks out in his first interview since the dramatic verdict.

Also with us is Christopher's sister, Danielle Pittman. His maternal grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. Delnora and Will Dupry. Aunt Linda Rector and Doroth Pittman, sister of the grandmother Christopher killed.

Then later, Christopher Pittmans defense attorneys, Andy Vickery and Karen Menzies.

And Steven Platt, one of the jurors who found Chris Pittman guilty of murder.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Start by telling you we know lot of you tuned in to see evangelist Joyce Meyer tonight. We had a change of programming because of breaking news. Joyce will be on the guest on Thursday night. The fab four of "Will and Grace" will join us for the hour tomorrow night

Earlier today in Charleston, South Carolina, a jury convicted 15- year-old Christopher Pittman of two counts of murder. He was sentenced to 30 years for each count to run concurrent, that was the minimum. Christopher Pittman acknowledged he shotgunned his parents to death. The defense contended he was intoxicated by the anti- depressant, Zoloft.

Joining us first, in Charleston, is Joe Pittman, Christopher Pittman's father, the son of the victims, Joe and Joy Pittman. He did not attend the trial, but addressed the court today. As well as, Danielle Pittman, Chris Pittman's sister, who was a defense witness at the trail, she also addressed the court earlier today.

KING: Joe, why didn't you attend the trial?

JOE PITTMAN, FATHER OF CHRISTOPHER: Larry, the reason that I didn't attend the trial, it was for the best interests of my son for me not to be there. That way, the prosecution couldn't try to make the case about me instead of Christopher and the drugs.

KING: Were you shocked at the verdict, Joe?

J. PITTMAN: Yes, I was shocked at the verdict.

KING: Danielle, were you surprised?

DANIELLE PITTMAN, SISTER OF CHRISTOPHER: I was in complete and utter disbelief. When I got the message, I just -- I had no idea that they could even come up with a verdict like that.

KING: Where were you and who told you?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I was sitting there in the courtroom. I was there with my brother through all of it.

KING: When the jury walked in, did you have any premonition?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: The way everything went, I honestly thought that it was going to be something that we had hoped for. I honestly thought my brother was going to get not guilty.

KING: Your brother, Chris, addressed the court today, as well. Here's a look at what he had to say.


CHRISTOPHER PITTMAN, 15-YEAR-OLD: All I can really say, I know it's in the hands of God. And what he decides on, that's what it's going to be. That's it.


KING: How do you -- have you spoken to Chris since, Joe?

J. PITTMAN: Yes. I just spoke to him a few minutes ago.

KING: What did he say?

J. PITTMAN: He's very upset. He was crying. He just -- he's heartbroken. He just wanted some tender loving care and some reassurance we were there for him and we're going to continue to be there for him, as we will be.

KING: So, you're definitely going to appeal?

J. PITTMAN: We're going to do everything we can to help Christopher, whatever that means.

KING: Do you know why the, Danielle, why the court pronounced sentence today? Don't they usually have a pre-sentence hearing?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: That's something that was up to the lawyers. I have no idea why they decided to do that, but I think they had my brother's best interests in their mind. So, that was up to them. I can't answer that. I'm sorry.

KING: Joe, what must have it been like when your own son kills your parents?

What went through you?

J. PITTMAN: First off, Larry, it was just a total and utterly disbelief. And when I finally did accept the fact that that's what really happened, it didn't make any sense to me. I started looking into things and I started finding some stuff out about these anti- depressants.

KING: Did you and your son have a good relationship?

J. PITTMAN: Well, not really. We did the best that we could. I was the single father with my children, and I tried to do the best I could. I was not a perfect father, but I loved my children and I was there for them.

KING: Was he living with the grandparents?

J. PITTMAN: No. He was living with me, and then he went to South Carolina to be with my mom and dad.

KING: For the summer?

J. PITTMAN: He went there for a brief period of time, so that he could adjust. Mom and dad, like they told me, there's two of them, they're retired, they can spend more time with him than I could. And...

KING: Where is his mother, Joe?

J. PITTMAN: I have no clue.

KING: You don't know where she is? She has never contacted you in any of this?

J. PITTMAN: No, she has not.

KING: Danielle, you have not heard from your mother?

DANIELLE: PITTMAN: No, sir, I have not.

KING: How old were you when your mother and dad broke up?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I was 3. Somewhere around there. And she left and was in and out of my life for about the first year, year and a half. And she came back into my life when I was 14 and left again.

KING: And you haven't heard from her since?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: No, sir, I have not.

KING: What was your relationship, through out all of this, with Chris?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: Christopher was my best friend. Even though he's my younger brother, I considered him almost to be my stability. We were shuffled around a lot throughout our childhood. We were always in a different house. And he was the only one that was always there with me. That was always there that I could talk to.

KING: Are you close with your dad?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: Yes, sir, fairly.

KING: How did you feel, with the death of your grandparents?

Were you close to them?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I was devastated. I was very close to my grandparents. I honestly believed that, if there was one person in the world that loved my grandparents more than I did, it was my brother. That's why this whole thing does not make sense to me.

KING: What about remorse? Is he showing a lot -- when was the last time -- did you speak to him today -- Danielle.

DANIELLE PITTMAN: Yes, sir. He's told all of us point-blank that he knows God's forgiven him, and he knows the family's forgiven him. But he says he doesn't know if he can ever forgive himself. And he says, I don't think I ever can forgive myself.

KING: Was he -- Joe, did he have troubles in youth? What caused the prescription of Zoloft?

J. PITTMAN: Well, I would have to say his mother just up and disappearing out of his life had a very big part of Christopher wanting to go be with my mom and dad. I think that he was looking for the stability. And he ended up running away. And we ended up putting him in life stream, and then he ended going to stay with my mom and dad.

KING: And it was then that Zoloft was prescribed?

J. PITTMAN: Actually, it was Paxil first.

KING: And then they -- They're both anti-depressants, right?

J. PITTMAN: Yes, sir. They're both SSRI drugs.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back. And when we come back, we'll be joined by Denora and Will Dupree, Chris's maternal grandfather and grandmother, by Mendy Rector his aunt, and Doroth Pittman, the sister in law of the late Joe Pittman, the grandfather who was killed. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now either you shot grandma first or grandpa first, we don't know. But we know one went in his mouth and one went in her head. And by his statement -- pumped it again, fired another shot, pumped it again and fired a fourth shot. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I don't care how old he is, the state submits, that is as malicious a killing, a murder, as you're ever going to find.




PAUL WALDNER, CHRISTOPHER PITTMAN'S ATTORNEY: In this community, in this state and in this country, we do not convict children for murder when they've been ambushed by chemicals that have destroyed their ability to reason.


KING: With us from Charleston, South Carolina, is Joe Pittman, Chris' father, Danielle Pittman, his sister. Now joining us as well, Delnora and Will Duprey, they are Christopher's maternal grandmother and step-grandfather. Delnora was a defense witness, and both addressed the court prior to sentencing. Mindy Rector is Chris' aunt. She is the daughter of Chris' victims, Joe and Joy Pittman. She was a defense witness as well. She also addressed the court. And Doroth Pittman, the sister-in-law of the late Joe Pittman.

Delnora, were you surprised at the verdict?

DELNORA DUPREY, CHRISTOPHER PITTMAN'S MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER: Yes, sir, I was very surprised by the verdict. We feel as though our attorneys provided very ample evidence to Chris' past that was not troubled. He never had any trouble, never had any trouble with law or with school, until after he was given Paxil.

KING: And then Paxil was switched to Zoloft, right?

D. DUPREY: Yes, sir, it was.

KING: Now, Will, were you, as the maternal grandparents, were you close to the other grandparents?

D. DUPREY: In the years past when the children were younger and we all still lived in the same community, yes, we were reasonably close. We shared -- basically shared raising the kids.

KING: Will Duprey, the maternal, I guess step-grandfather, were you surprised?

WILL DUPREY, CHRISTOPHER PITTMAN'S MATERNAL STEP-GRANDFATHER: Yes, I was, very surprised. Chris was very quiet boy, a good boy. I never heard of him doing anything. And I'd known him since birth.

KING: Mindy, what did you make of this verdict today in this whole trial? Why did your side lose?

MELINDA RECTOR, CHRISTOPHER PITTMAN'S AUNT: Why did our side lose? I can only interject my opinion, Larry.

KING: Right. That's all I'm asking.

RECTOR: OK. I don't think that the jury got to fully see what type of child Christopher was. We didn't get to interject a lot of what the family, like myself, knew in the days leading up on, the things that we had noticed and we had seen. Every time we tried to speak, of course, we were objected to, so the jury didn't get to hear a lot of things that I think they should have heard.

KING: But it was still, Mindy, they were your parents that were killed?

RECTOR: Yes, they were.

KING: So there had to be enormous conflicting emotions?

RECTOR: That's an understatement, Larry.

KING: You loved the boy, you loved your parents?

RECTOR: Yes, I did. I still love my parents and I still love Chris.

KING: This is a classic tragedy.

Doroth Pittman, why didn't the jury accept this, do you think? Doris? Aunt Dottie?


KING: The defense?

DOROTH PITTMAN: The defense? First of all, Christopher should not have been in this adult court. And then when the defense tried to give the facts several times, they tried to give some facts, and it wasn't permitted.

KING: Aunt Dottie, there's no doubt in your mind that the drug kicked this off? How well do you know Chris?

DOROTH PITTMAN: I know Chris well enough to say that Christopher was a shy boy. But I knew more of his father, you know, than Christopher. But Christopher was just a special, normal 12-year-old.

KING: Joe, how much do you think was affected by the fact that when this crime occurred, he was 12 years old and 5-foot-2, and when he's on trial, he's 15 and almost six feet tall? J. PITTMAN: Oh, Larry, I'm sure that had a tremendous amount to do with it, because, you know, people judge people by first impressions. And the first thing those jurors saw was Christopher, being 15 years old and 6-foot-2. They didn't -- they had a cutout of Christopher there, but it just doesn't do the justice, because Christopher's also gotten a lot more intelligent. He has grown tremendously, as you could well tell. And it's just -- it's really not a fair thing that it took three years to get to this point, Larry.

KING: And Danielle, was it harder, do you think, when he's so tall and everything, to have the same compassion you might have had if he was standing in a courtroom at age 12?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I think for the jury, yes, it did, because I would often catch myself looking at him while he was there at the house, picturing him when he was 12. I've done a lot of growing in the last three years in height, and he was shorter than I was. And I'm sitting here now, while he was there at the house, and I'm having to look up at my little brother. And I'm sitting here thinking, I was like, how can the jury even get a grasp of how tiny and how small he was when this happened? So I think that -- I think that set a major prejudice against him.

KING: Delnora, it must go through your mind, how could a young little 12-year-old with no great history of violence, a shy kid, go and do this heinous an act? How do you resolve it in your own head?

D. DUPREY: There's only one way it can be resolved. And that's what the drugs were doing to his brain at the time. He was in no control over what was going on around him. None whatsoever. He absolutely adored his grandparents and would have never harmed them.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Still to come, we'll be meeting the attorneys. We're also going to meet one of the jurors who went for the guilty vote. Don't go away.


LUCINDA MCKELLAR, FORMER CHESTER COUNTY SHERIFF INVESTIGATOR: I'm not sorry. They deserved it. They hit me with the paddle. My daddy used to beat me with that paddle. I stayed with my grandparents when they lived in Florida. I stayed with them six years when my dad was in the military. I don't know if I would do it again. Everybody hates me. I'm useless.




DANIELLE PITTMAN: I know for a fact that if something would have happened to either one of my grandparents, the other one would be here supporting my brother because I know for a fact that there is absolutely no possible way that my brother, in his current state of mind, could have done something like that. And I'm going to support him. And I'm begging you to please have mercy on my brother.


KING: Let's include some phone calls for the family members. Fulsome, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. I was just calling to see if -- where did Christopher get the rifle to shoot his grandparents and shouldn't they have some responsibility besides trying to blame it all on Zoloft?

KING: Who knows that? Joe, do you know where the rifle was?

J. PITTMAN: First off, it wasn't a rifle, it was a shotgun. And the shotgun was in my dad's gun safe, which more than likely was locked. There was a key or a combination, which my parents had no reason to suspect that my -- or their grandson or my son would have done something like that. We were all raised around guns. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. And it was an unfortunate event that took place. And it's something we'll always regret but we will never ever, you know, not have guns.

KING: Delnora, do you equate this at all with -- is there any guilt around? Do you have any feelings, you or other members of the family that what could we have done? Did he show any signs of violence?

D. DUPREY: He absolutely didn't show any signs of violence. I also believe that when children are abandoned, and when their family is dysfunctional, that the children do pay a high price for that.

KING: Joe, do you bear some guilt?

J. PITTMAN: No, I don't bear any guilt. Circumstances took place. You don't know what's leading up to what takes place. I love my mom and dad with all my heart, I love my son with all my heart. There's nothing I can do to undo what took place.

KING: Danielle, do you feel you could have done something?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I don't think I could have done anything. I wish there was something I could do. I would be more than happy to sit in there and do the time for my brother. He doesn't deserve to be in there.

KING: Will Duprey, do you think you could have done something, as the grandfather who knew him since he was a baby?

W. DUPREY: I haven't -- I didn't see him very often. But when I did, he was just calm and quiet, just a wonderful little boy. And I'd love to have him with me right now.

KING: Can't say any better than that. Mindy, did you see any signs of this at all?

RECTOR: Ask that question again, please? KING: Did you see any signs of violence, anything that could have indicated to you that maybe I could have done something to prevent this?

RECTOR: At the time, no, I didn't, Larry. But looking back on it and knowing what I know now, I have guilt. I wish there was -- I wish I had been more knowledgeable in the medications that he was taking. Had I been aware of what the side effects were, what could have happened, I would have been more adamant in telling my mother to get him help right now, right now, and get him off of it. And told her what the effects were, but I took trust in that doctors knew best, and I have guilt over that.

KING: Understandable. Aunt Dottie, the FDA doesn't recommend Zoloft for children, does it?

DOROTH PITTMAN: No, it doesn't.

KING: Let's take a call from Ottawa, Canada -- Ontario, hello. Ottawa, are you there?


KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: The prosecutor's antics with the shotgun were highly inflammatory. Did the defense lawyers object to such hysterical performances?

KING: We'll have the lawyers on in a couple of minutes. How did you feel about how the prosecution presented itself, Danielle, with the shotgun?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. I think -- I don't think that our lawyers objected to it. And I think the reason for that was that we don't have anything to hide. We don't have anything to be ashamed of. We didn't know the facts but we know the facts now. We just want to make sure that everybody else knows the facts also, so that they can make an educated decision. And a travesty like this won't happen in their family.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll spend a few moments with the defense team of Andy Vickery and Karen Menzies and more of your phone calls for the family and then later, we'll meet Steve Platt, a member of the jury. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no question 12-year-old Chris Pittman killed his grandparents. He confessed. The question is why? Voices in his head he said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Echoes from inside his head, saying, kill, kill, do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The defense said an antidepressant drug, Zoloft sent the boy spinning out of control. Relatives said it changed the child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says, it's like I'm burning under my skin and I can't put it out.



KING: Joining us now are Andy Vickery and Karen Menzies, the defense attorney for Chris Pittman. Karen, by the way, specializes in lawsuits against anti-depressant makers. We asked the prosecutors of this case to join us. They declined. Pfizer issued a statement after the verdict which said in part, "Zoloft didn't cause his problems, nor did the medication drive him to commit murder. On these two points, both Pfizer and the jury agree."

Andy, were you surprised?

ANDY VICKERY, LEAD DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I was shocked, Larry. I was shocked. I've been handling similar cases for a number of years. In fact, four months before the Pittman's death a jury in Wyoming concluded in similar circumstances that the drug had indeed caused it. So I was overwhelmed.

KING: Karen, were you surprised?

KAREN MENZIES, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm very disappointed, Larry. I think the jury was faced with a difficult issue. The problem is, as everybody recognized throughout the trial, Zoloft changed Chris' behavior, and he did in fact suffer side effects that as of last month FDA is finally requiring Pfizer to warn about.

KING: So why did you lose, Karen?

MENZIES: Well, I think it's difficult for people to get -- to fit an answer to the question, if he shot them, we've been misled with these medications for over 10 years now, that they're safe and helpful, when in reality, for some people, they can cause severe side effects like psychosis. We've all understood that physicians, treating physicians like Dr. Namin (ph) have not been informed that Zoloft can cause violent and homicidal behavior.

KING: Andy, why was sentenced pronounced today? Why wasn't there some sort of pre-sentence investigation?

VICKERY: Well, I think, as a practical matter, Larry, because the legislature has tied the judge's hands. He only had two choices under the statute, and that is 30 years or life. And so, there's no sense for an investigation. His hands are tied.

KING: Didn't the Supreme Court change that, though, Andy?

VICKERY: Well, we have -- we will file an Eighth Amendment challenge in the next few days, that this is an excessive punishment, particularly for a juvenile. But right now, the law in South Carolina is that 12-year-olds can be tried as adults for murder. It's in the distinct minority in that regard. And the statutory scheme provides for a minimum of a 30-year mandatory sentence, which is what the judge gave.

KING: And that can't be lowered?

VICKERY: Well, it should be lowered by the Constitution, but by the state statute, which we contend is unconstitutional, as applied to Chris Pittman, it can't be. And so that's a decision Judge Pieper is going to have to make within the next few weeks.

KING: Karen, did you object to the use of the shotgun in the courtroom by the prosecutor?

MENZIES: No, we didn't, Larry. And Danielle's exactly correct, that from the very start, we have not tried to hide from anyone, including the solicitor, any of the information that's available on the facts of this case. We think the facts, if fully considered by the jury, and I'm fearful that certain jurors certainly have not considered all of the facts in their context. But no, we've tried to be open and upfront and with all the facts that we can.

KING: Joe Pittman, were you satisfied with the defense given by Andy and Karen?

J. PITTMAN: Absolutely. They did a marvelous job. I'm very proud of them. They couldn't have done a better job, I don't think. I'm sure that they critiqued themselves, but sitting back and watching everything, and knowing what they put into this, they couldn't have done a better job in my opinion. I think they gave it their all. And I know that they are not going to give up on Chris, because they put their heart and their soul into this. And I know they care. And that's what matters is we've got to care about our youth and we've got to do something to protect them. And that's why they're there. They're angels from heaven.

KING: Danielle, what did you think of their defense?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I thought they did an awesome job. My brother honestly could not have asked for a better team. And I am going to be eternally grateful to the efforts that they have done. I love all of them that are on there, and they've just been really understanding and they've been there for us.

KING: Andy, do you have -- we asked about guilt in the family, do you have any feelings of would have, should have, could have? Maybe I should have? Is that logical?

VICKERY: Yeah, you always do. I think the best answer to the would have, should have question, Larry, is if Pfizer had warned about acathesia (ph) before this happened, and when Mindy got a call three days before this, and Chris said, "Aunt Mindy, I feel like there's fire under my skin," she would have known, or the family would have known that this was a horrible side effect of Zoloft. And I suspect you'll be inundated with calls and e-mails from other people who have suffered similar side effects, because it is not all that rare.

KING: But what -- is there anything you would have done differently?

VICKERY: I've asked myself that for the last few hours. And I don't know what it would be. We poured our heart and our soul into this. We did everything that we could to prepare for this trial and to present it. And in a professional way, in a dignified way. And I can't think of anything that we could have done that would have made a difference. I wish I could. At least I'd have something to blame it on.

KING: Aunt Mindy, what do you think when you remember that conversation about the burning?

RECTOR: What I remember about it is it did alert me that there -- that something wasn't right. And that's when I talked to my mother about it. And she said that she had a follow-up appointment on Monday, and that she would go see the doctor again and let him know. And then she told me that the medication had been adjusted.

So, I could only assume that she did, everything was in her power, and I assumed everything was OK. But I didn't know how bad it was from the side.

KING: Karen, do you say to yourself, there's something I could have done that I didn't do?

MENZIES: Well, listening to what Mindy just said, we had an opportunity here, if Dr. Namin (ph), for example, had been properly warned about the side effects of this drug, and if Chris' nanna had gone to the doctor and complained about these side effects, and if he was properly educated, he would have done something about it. The last thing he would have done would be to increase the dose, which is what apparently happened.

So I guess to the extent that I could bring that out better for the jury, the fact that these drugs do -- none of the experts disagreed with that, all the experts, including the solicitor's experts, agree that Zoloft can cause mania, psychosis, hallucinations, and, you know, Larry, I think that's why the family here is willing to talk to you tonight so soon after the verdict, is they don't want to see this happen to other families, because they were not properly educated.

KING: Andy, is there a chance he could get a continuing bond? He was out on bond.

VICKERY: I asked Judge Pieper for that at the end, and he reminded me that because there's a conviction, the bond would have to come from the appellate court. So our first move will be to remind the court about the Eighth Amendment and to urge upon him that he bring South Carolina into the stream of evolving notions of decency, which the Constitution requires. That would require him to reduce the sentence, and then we'll go to the Court of Appeals and ask for a bond.

KING: How do you think, Andy, he will handle incarceration? VICKERY: Well, he's handled it three years, with great grace and integrity and maturity. He's a straight A student, he's well behaved. The first year, he had some real problems, which two of the doctors thought were really lingering effects of the drugs, which he was continued on for some period of time while he was incarcerated.

But Chris is a survivor. He's bright, he's hard working, and he knows that we're there for him, and we're not going to give up on him. There are a number of different avenues, including the speedy trial motion. He was held without trial for three years. So there are a number of legal issues, constitutional issues, and he knows we'll be there for him, and I think he'll hang in there with us.

KING: What held it up for three years?

VICKERY: I'm sorry. Say that again, Larry?

KING: What held it up for three years?

VICKERY: Boy, that's good question. You know, we didn't get involved in this case -- Karen and I volunteered on it last May. So we've only been involved since May of last year. But I honestly can't tell you what held it up for three years. I think it's inexcusable and I think it's appalling.

KING: Karen, can you say you got emotionally involved with your client?

MENZIES: Oh, getting to know Chris and the family members, the integrity that this entire family has, and Chris specifically, he feels tremendous remorse for what happened. He realizes, I think now, like one of the other witnesses on Paxil described, that he had no idea what he was doing at the time. Now he looks back on it, and you know, you have to say, if only I hadn't taken that medication.

KING: Thank you both. Andy Vickery and Karen Menzies, we have certainly not heard the last of this.

We'll take a break and when we come back, we'll talk to Steve Platt, a member of the jury that convicted Chris Pittman of two counts of murder.


J. PITTMAN: I love my son very dearly and I want to beg you for mercy on my son, on his behalf. And also, your honor, I would like to, for the record let you know why I have not been in this courtroom, is because this trial was about my son and it did not need to go any other direction. It needed to be about my son and about the medication, so we felt that it was the best, for me not to be here, until today.

It has been very hard for me not to be here to support my son. I love my son with all my heart, as I did my mom and dad. And my mom and dad, if they were here today, would be begging for mercy as well, your honor. (END VIDEO CLIP)



DANIELLE PITTMAN: He was constantly up and down, in and out of the house. He was just crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chris, now 15, was diagnosed with depression.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And likely, he did it because he was vigor (ph) and mad, very angry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The prosecution said Chris killed his grandparents in a fit of anger for disciplining him.


KING: We now welcome Steve Platt. He's in Charleston, a member of the jury that convicted Chris Pittman of two counts of murder. Was this your first time ever on jury duty, Steve?


KING: What was it like?

PLATT: It was very intense to say the least. It was definitely quite the experience.

KING: What led you to come to the decision you came to?

PLATT: The evidence that the prosecution presented was just definitely more -- more convincing than what the defense did.

KING: You didn't buy anything -- the Zoloft idea, you didn't see any change in personality or affect it could have?

PLATT: There was some. But it wasn't substantial enough to make somebody go from, you know, fidgeting and having some side effects, you know, that were previously warned about, to actually picking up a gun and shooting somebody.

KING: Did the testimony of the psychiatrist for the defense carry any weight with you?

PLATT: Which witness would that be -- or which testimony?

KING: The psychiatrist who testified that Zoloft, when you hear from a medical expert, because we're laymen. When a medical expert says that Zoloft did do this, when the FDA doesn't recommend it for children, why didn't that have any weight with you?

PLATT: It seemed like Dr. Atkins (ph) was, who I assume you're talking about. KING: Yes.

PLATT: She came in after the fact, did not witness him on the medication, a just to far -- a little too far removed from the situation to, you know, in our opinion, to be able to justify making some sort of valid expert opinion on Chris.

KING: It took six hours. Were any jury members at the beginning going for the not guilty route?

PLATT: There was a few. And as more evidence was gone through and, you know, the deliberations began, slowly, everybody turned in favor of the verdict that we presented.

KING: Did you take into consideration that this act occurred when he was 12, and he sure doesn't look 12 now?

PLATT: That was definitely a consideration and it was actually, in my opinion, for me personally, was one of the hardest thing to overcome, was the fact that he was 12-years-old. Sure he looked different sitting at the table, but they had the cardboard cutout that was sitting up front, you know, to kind of remind us how old he actually was. But it was very difficult to fathom, I guess, that a 12-year-old would actually do something like that.

KING: What did you think of Chris, looking at him in court everyday?

PLATT: You know, it kind of seemed like, you know, he was just staring at the table. And he was turning -- turning on the tears, kind of on and off like a faucet. He seemed to be coached.

KING: You felt that way?

PLATT: I did, and others did as well.

KING: Have any opinion on 30 years?

PLATT: Thirty years, actually, you know, everybody in the jury room was actually relieved he did get 30 years, because it was the lesser of, you know, the least amount of sentence he could get. So, that was, you know, especially since he got it concurrently, we felt better that that's the way that it turned out.

KING: No one wanted the maximum, then?

PLATT: Oh, no, definitely not.

KING: And do you feel compassion for the family?

PLATT: Yes, I do, definitely. It's a very unfortunate situation that happened. But in the end, I think we all believe justice was served.

KING: Steve, thank you very much for sharing this with us.

PLATT: Thank you, Larry, appreciate it.

KING: Steve Platt, a member of the jury that convicted Chris Pittman.

All right, Joe Pittman, what do you think of Steve's reasoning?

J. PITTMAN: I honestly feel Steve wasn't given all the facts. I've been studying these drugs for three years now. And there is a lot of things that was not allowed to be presented that should have been presented. And I don't think they were exactly clear on the fact these drugs were in Christopher's system once he left Florida. You know, he was in Florida when he went to life stream, and he was on the drugs.

And then he went to South Carolina, was switched to another SSRI, but still the same family of drugs. And then, while he -- after he had been incarcerated, they decided he was depressed and put him on Paxil then. So, he went from Paxil to Zoloft to Paxil. And it's not something you stop taking and it's out of your system, it stays in your system for six to nine months. And all the problems that Christopher revolve around that area, with the exception of a couple little small incidences that took place in Florida.

KING: But you praised the defense. Is it that the judge didn't allow certain things in?

J. PITTMAN: Yes, I do praise the defense. The prosecution did a good job of twisting things around. And I got to say that that's what took place. They were able to do so much objecting and everything, every time you turn around, that's all you heard was objection, objection, objection. They were just trying to stay in control. And it was control issue for them. And unfortunately, my son's paying the price. I would like to also interject...

KING: Go ahead.

J. PITMANN: I would like to -- yes, sir. I would like to also interject, that if anybody is interested, they can go to And there is actually a Web address there, where they can e-mail the governor of South Carolina any comments that they have, because we're asking the people for compassion that know and have heard about how these drugs work to please write the governor, and we're actually trying to go for a pardon. And I would greatly appreciate that and so would the family.

KING: That's

J. PITTMAN: Yes, sir.

KING: Danielle, when Steve explained that some of the jurors were for not guilty and then were eventually changed, how do you react to that?

DANIELLE PITTMAN: I think that the jurors that had not guilty, I wish they would have had a little more sway with the rest of the jury. My brother's definitely not guilty. That's the sentence that he should have gotten. That's the just sentence that he should have gotten. I would also like to say that when the juror that was just talking said my brother seemed to turn the tears on and off like a faucet I can be the one to let you know my brother is very stingy with his emotions. He's very shy. My aunt said it very nicely in court saying that he talked with his eyes. So for him to cry, that is completely genuine.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments on this incredible tragedy. Don't go away.


MCKELLAR: My grandpa said if I came out he was going to beat me with the paddle. I came out at about 10:00 something, I was going to get something to drink. My grand dad got the paddle. I tried to get my shotgun. He hit me on my back and my butt. Then he said if I came out any more, he said he would hit me across the head with it. When they went to bed I waited about ten minutes. I got the shotgun out of the cabinet, I took it in my room and loaded it. I took a box of shells from the cabinet, I put three in it, jacked one and put another one in it. I went in their room. I just aimed at the bed. I shot four times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now wait a minute. I shot -- OK, go ahead.

MCKELLAR: Four times.




JUDGE DANIEL PIEPER, TRIAL JUDGE IN PITTMAN CASE: Well, I have considered everything that has been presented to me. And it is the judgment of this court that as to each of these counts, the defendant receive a sentence of 30 years. Those will be concurrent to one another, not consecutive. Good luck to you.


KING: One more quick call, South Brunswick, New Jersey.

CALLER: Thank you, Larry. I watch your show every night. It's my favorite. My question is to the parents, do they plan on suing the drug company at all?

KING: Any suit planned, Joe?

J. PITTMAN: As of right now, we don't have anything going on. I don't know what the future holds. We will figure that out when we cross that bridge.

KING: Delnora, what do you think of what the juror had to say?

D. DUPREY: It's very unfortunate that major drug companies, because of their influence and their financial status, can hide documents from people and get away with hiding information that could be saving lives. They need to be exposed. Their secret documents need to be out there, to where people can make a proper choice in what they're doing.

KING: Will, do you think there's a chance the governor may pardon?

W. DUPREY: That's what we're hoping for, Larry. Our attorneys are great people. They've really helped us out quite a bit. We love them all to death. As for the prosecuting attorneys they're good actors, I have to give them credit for that. They're good actors. They know how to be like a jumping jack.

KING: Thank you all very much. We know this was difficult for you. Again, for information or if you want to contact people with regard to this or help in any way, if you feel the need to, And our guests, including the juror and the attorneys were Joe Pittman, Danielle Pittman, Delnora and Will Duprey, Melinda Rector -- Mindy Rector and Aunt Dottie, Dottie Pittman. I'll be back in a couple of minutes and tell you about a different kind of show for tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night we're turning (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the cast of "Will and Grace." They're a lot of fun. That's a terrific show.

Speaking of terrific shows, when you look terrific shows in the dictionary you get a picture of Aaron Brown/"NEWSNIGHT." "Will and Grace," Aaron Brown, two terrific shows I get to be right around.


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