On February 24, 2000 Connecticut Superior Court Judge J. Arnold acquitted Christopher DeAngelo of first-degree robbery on the grounds that the defendant lacked substantial capacity as a result of mental disease or defect, and was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control his conduct within the requirements of the law. Mr. Angelo had been taking a tranquilizer, Xanax, and an antidepressant, Prozac.
Over a period of a few days, Mr. DeAngelo had committed several robberies. In one bizarre episode, he robbed his wife’s bank while disguised with nothing more than a fake mustache. He was also driving his easily identifiable vintage automobile. He walked past a cordon of police with guns drawn as he left the bank and fled amid a hail of bullets.
Mr. DeAngelo had no prior history of any criminal or aggressive activities, and was considered a very responsible individual by co-workers, friends, and family. There was no apparent financial motivation, since he was doing well economically and had many resources within his family. Everyone who knew him was shocked by his behavior while taking Xanax and Prozac.
The judge specifically attributed Mr. DeAngelo’s impaired state to his prescribed Xanax and Prozac. In coming to his decision, the judge quoted at length from a report that was written by psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin, M.D. Dr. Breggin presented scientific evidence concerning disinhibition (paradoxical behavior) and mania induced by the Xanax (alprazolam) and Prozac (fluoxetine). The judge quoted Dr. Breggin’s observations concerning drug-induced disinhibition and mania. Dr. Breggin wrote, “Both syndromes are characterized by lack of self-control, judgment, and insight.” He pointed out, “Both can cause or include out-of-character, irrational, senseless, impulsive, bizarre and destructive behavior,” and “they can produce criminal actions that make no sense in terms of the individual’s self-interest, and which are bound to be discovered.” Dr. Breggin also described how the defendant’s increased alcohol consumption was probably related to the psychiatric drugs. Dr. Breggin concluded that if the defendant had not been prescribed Prozac and Xanax, “he would almost certainly never have committed these crimes.”
Several other psychiatrists, including one appointed by the State’s Attorney’s Office, came to conclusions very similar to Dr. Breggin’s. The case is State of Connecticut vs. Christopher DeAngelo (CR97 0108766S), Superior Court, Judicial District of Ansonia/Milford at Milford.The defense attorney was John Williams (203 562 9931).
Dr. Breggin has also been an expert witness in other criminal cases involving abnormal behavior induced by a variety of psychiatric drugs, including Xanax and Prozac.Some of these cases have resulted in outcomes favorable to the defendants.He has also been involved in numerous product liability suits against the manufacturer of Prozac, Eli Lilly & Company, all of which have been settled by the drug company.
One Prozac product liability case (the “Wesbecker case”) was settled by Eli Lilly & Company during the trial some time after Dr. Breggin’s testimony. However, the plaintiffs and the drug company hid the secret settlement from the presiding judge and the jury. Having secretly paid off the plaintiffs, the drug company then engineered a favorable verdict for itself with the help of the plaintiffs who presented a watered-down case to the jury. Thus, the plaintiffs received a large pay off and the defendants got a favorable verdict. After the trial, the Kentucky Supreme Court severely criticized the drug company for manipulating the judicial system. The judge forced Eli Lilly & Company to admit that it had secretly settled the case and then rigged the trial.The judge changed the jury verdict to settled with prejudice by the drug company.