Drug Company Memo Plays Role in Murder Trial; Leslie Demeniuk's Attorneys Say Report Links Antidepressants, Homicide

By Lewis, Ken | The Florida Times Union, January 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

Drug Company Memo Plays Role in Murder Trial; Leslie Demeniuk's Attorneys Say Report Links Antidepressants, Homicide


Lewis, Ken, The Florida Times Union


Byline: KEN LEWIS

ST. AUGUSTINE -- The murder trial of Leslie Demeniuk took a surprise turn Wednesday when defense attorneys revealed an internal document from a pharmaceutical company that they say shows a company scientist acknowledging a link between antidepressants and homicide.

Defense attorneys Bill Sheppard and Gray Thomas said a scientist in the 2000 internal report from GlaxoSmithKline, the company that makes Paxil, described extremely rare side effects of antidepressants that include homicidal thoughts and homicide.

Prosecutors didn't have the report at the trial because it was buried in boxes of files when the defense handed it over as required by law.

The report plays directly into the insanity defense of Demeniuk, a 36-year-old Ponte Vedra Beach woman who her attorneys say was temporarily insane and involuntarily intoxicated on antidepressants, Xanax and alcohol when she fatally shot her twin sons on March 17, 2001.

Her attorneys started presenting their case Wednesday afternoon, the fourth day of the trial, after the state rested. Their first witness was David Menkes, psychiatrist from the University of Wales, who testified about the rare side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly called SSRIs. This kind of antidepressant includes Zoloft and Paxil.

Menkes said SSRIs are associated with side effects that include "hostility," and then he said the definition of hostility includes homicidal thoughts and homicide. This provoked an immediate objection from Assistant State Attorney Noah McKinnon and concerns from Circuit Judge John Alexander.

When asked to support Menkes' definition of hostility, the defense introduced the company scientist's internal report. The author had worked at Smith Kline Beecham, the company that is now GlaxoSmithKline.

The jury was removed from the courtroom after McKinnon's objection, and a heated argument began.

"This testimony shows the drug companies themselves have noted, here are effects . . . observed during treatment with this particular medicine," Thomas said.

"They [the drug companies] don't want the public to get the documents," Sheppard said. …

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