In Florida in 2016 in the driveway of his home, a man fired pointblank shots through the windshield of his former girlfriend’s car and killed her new boyfriend. The accused had been started on the antidepressant Lexapro 18 days earlier. He was also put in turmoil ten minutes before his actions by a text from his ex-girlfriend warning that she was coming over to deliver some cold medicine for their child and that her new boyfriend would be in the car with her.
Dr. Breggin was prepared to testify that the murder had been committed “in the heat of passion” under a series of provocations. He was also planning to discuss the probable effects of an involuntary intoxication with the antidepressant in making the accused more vulnerable to losing control over his emotions.
If the jury had accepted either defense (heat of passion or involuntary intoxication), it would have mitigated intent and reduced the crime from first-degree to second-degree murder. Under Florida law, neither defense could have led to a not guilty verdict. In addition, there was a mandatory 25-year sentence for the use of a gun in a crime.
The prosecution scheduled a Skype deposition on January 25, 2018. A few days beforehand, Dr. Breggin sent many scientific articles and documents to the prosecution to bolster his expert opinions. The state cancelled the deposition in the morning shortly before it was scheduled to begin.
The prosecution offered the defendant a plea bargain of second degree murder which he accepted. If the case had gone to trial without Dr. Breggin’s testimony, a conviction for first degree murder was almost inevitable. Given the facts of the case, a second-degree murder conviction was the best possible outcome. The defendant accepted the plea.
The case is Florida v. Caleb McKinney. The Public Defender for Mr. McKinney was attorney Tonmiel Rodriquez.