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Doctor Testifies on Gunman's Prozac Use

April 18, 2002|From Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A man on trial for killing seven co-workers tripled his dosage of Prozac before the shootings, a move that may have heightened his rage and sparked the shooting spree, a defense psychiatrist testified Wednesday.

Dr. Anthony Joseph said Michael McDermott suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and other mental disorders that made him unable to understand that what he was doing was wrong when he opened fire at Edgewater Technology on Dec. 26, 2000.

Prosecutors contend McDermott killed his colleagues because he was angry over the company's decision to withhold some of his salary to pay back taxes.

But Joseph said McDermott told him that he had increased his dosage of Prozac by Dec. 1, first from 70 milligrams a day to 140 milligrams, and then to 210 milligrams. Joseph said McDermott increased the dosage without his doctor's permission or advice.

"It's very possible that Prozac is the final piece of the puzzle that explains the level of rage and anger that allowed the killings to occur," Joseph said.

Although Prozac acts as an antidepressant, potential side effects include restlessness, agitation, psychosis, rage, anger and violence.

Joseph acknowledged he could not say to "a reasonable degree of medical certainty" what effect the dosage had on McDermott.

Prosecutors planned to cross-examine Joseph today. They also planned to call witnesses to support a theory that McDermott concocted an elaborate tale to make himself look insane to the jury.

On the witness stand last week, McDermott, a 43-year-old software engineer, said he believed he killed Nazis and not his co-workers.

He said an archangel appeared to him before the killings and told him he could prevent the Holocaust and earn a soul if he traveled back in time to 1940 and killed Adolf Hitler and six German generals.

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