Lawyer Blames Boy’s Standoff on Prozac


Ten-year-old Timmy Becton hated going to school.

He missed so many days that his parents took him to a therapist, who sent him to a psychiatrist, who gave his mother a box of Prozac for Timmy.

Weeks later, police say, the fourth-grader grabbed his 3-year-old niece as a shield and aimed a 12-gauge shotgun at a sheriff’s deputy who accompanied a truant officer to his home.

“I’d sooner shoot you than go to school,” the boy shouted, according to police.


Timmy’s is the first known court case to involve a child using Prozac, the popular antidepressant drug. He has been charged in Florida’s Polk County Juvenile Court with aggravated assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer and armed kidnapping.

His lawyer blames the seven-minute standoff on Prozac.

“Timmy Becton was under the influence of a mind-altering drug at the time of the incident,” defense lawyer Ellis Rubin said after a brief court hearing earlier this month. “The drug ought to be taken off the market.”

Timmy’s parents said he responded well to the drug at first, after a visit to a psychiatrist in January. But when the boy’s dosage was increased, he had violent mood swings.

“He’d get really angry and stuff like that. He’d scream at you and then a few minutes later, he’d love you and hug you and not even remember being so angry,” his mother, Cindy, said after the court hearing.

Prozac is the world’s best-selling antidepressant, with sales of more than $1 billion a year. But the drug’s success has been clouded by claims that it can cause mood swings and suicidal thoughts in some people.

Lawyers have presented the use of Prozac as a defense in 66 criminal court cases, but none has been successful, according to the drug’s maker, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co.

Earlier this month, a New York man was convicted of attempted murder after claiming that a mixture of drugs, including Prozac, caused him to firebomb two subway trains in 1994.

And two years ago, a Kentucky jury cleared Lilly of wrongdoing in the case of a man on Prozac who killed nine and wounded 12 in a 1989 shooting spree.

“No medical evidence has been brought forward to support the Prozac defense,” Lilly spokesman Jeff Taylor said. “It ranks right up there with the Twinkie defense and the TV-dependency defense as pretty shaky.”

But the drug’s label notes that Prozac’s safety and effectiveness for children has not been established. Few studies have been done on its effects on children.

Prozac, like other drugs, is used to treat children because it has been proven effective for adults. About 220,000 depressed children 10 and younger were prescribed, recommended to use or administered the drug in 1994, according to figures compiled by IMS America, a division of Dun & Bradstreet Corp. that tracks pharmaceutical sales.

Timmy skipped school on President’s Day, Feb. 19, because he felt that it was unfair that students in a neighboring county had the day off while his district remained open, his mother said.

After the deputy and truant officer arrived at the Bectons’ Lakeland home, 40 miles east of Tampa, police say Timmy sat on a sofa and aimed the shotgun at a deputy, while hiding behind his niece, Tiffany.

His family says the gun is bigger than the 4-foot, 70-pound boy, and he never pointed it at police.

The standoff ended when Timmy’s grandmother arrived, pushed past the deputy and took the gun.

“I said, ‘Timmy, why are you doing this?’ ” said his grandmother, Minnie Lee Parker. “He said, ‘I don’t know, Grandma.’ He was scared.”

Timmy had been held at a juvenile detention center until a judge ordered him to be released to his parents’ custody. The judge also ordered him not to leave the house.

His trial is scheduled for April 18. If convicted, he could be held in a detention center until age 21.

“As soon as I get him home, he’s not going to take that medication,” Cindy Becton said. “I don’t want him taking it.”

As for Rubin, the defense lawyer, he has made a career of using unusual defense strategies. His most noteworthy was the 1991 “nymphomania defense,” in which he contended that Prozac drove housewife Kathy Willets to prostitution. He lost the case.