The United States of America ever the ‘land of the free’ has just rejected an appeal from Christopher Pittman against a 30 year prison term *without parole* for killing his grandparents. You might think at first glance this is a ‘reasonable’ sentence for the crime and he was lucky to escape a death penalty. However things are not as they seem.
At the time of the crime, which there is no doubt he *did* commit by the way, Chris was only 12 years old. What’s more, he had been taking Zoloft, and this antidepressant has been linked to many, many other out of character acts committed by people. I was prescribed this stuff once before I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnoea and can tell you from experience that it is *not* pleasant to take and the side effects were appalling. I have no doubt whatsoever that the underlying cause of anything this boy did while taking the drug is open to serious question!
Apart from the effects of the drugs, the way this boy was treated once in custody was nothing short of immoral. He was denied immediate legal representation, and despite his youth and the clear effects of the drugs, he was persuaded to waive his constitutional rights and confess!!
Instead of being taken immediately to a family court for a confidential hearing and creation of a treatment program… he was incarcerated for nearly 3 years before being tried as an adult!
The problem with South Carolina law is that upon being found guilty in an adult court, the mandatory 30 year minimum term was applied… so this psychiatrically disturbed little boy is going to be held for most of his life in one of the USA’s hell holes with no chance even of an early release!
If this is what the Americans call justice I’m even more pleased not to be living there.
Nobody is claiming that Chris (now aged 19) shouldn’t be punished for the crime, nor is there a suggestion he should be returned to the community, most certainly not immediately. The request is that he should be placed in a facility where he can receive proper care and rehabilitation in a supportive environment rather than spent most of his productive years languishing in an adult jail for a crime committed when he was still a small child.