- Written by Sarah C. Corriher Sarah C. Corriher
"I was on Prozac. It's supposed to calm me down, and like level me out, but since I got on it, when something bothers me, it bothers me to [the] extreme. I just act differently. I don't have the energy or personality I used to. I spend half the time in a trance. I didn't realize I did it until after it was done, and then I realized it. This might sound weird, but it felt like I was left there holding a gun."
-- Kurt Danysh, police confession
Kurt Danysh was an outgoing 18-year old boy, whose troubles began when he was prescribed Prozac by a doctor who had performed no testing. The teenager quickly became withdrawn, and his emotional instability tail-spinned, making him reckless and violent. His rapid drug-induced deterioration continued; placing him in a fight with his best friend, and later compelling him to intentionally crash his truck into a stone wall. He then vandalized his own kamikazed-truck with graffiti in a manner that was reminiscent of the Charles Manson cult. This era of Kurt's life ended with him fatally shooting his father, at only 17 days after his first dose of Prozac. There was no motive for the crime, and Kurt had no history of violence.
The Court's Shenanigans
While being incarcerated for eighteen months awaiting a trial that would never come, Kurt refused to plead guilty. He was cruelly taunted by the jail staff with newspaper clippings about him. His attorney, Paul Ackourey, met with Kurt in the county jail, and implored him to plead guilty to third degree murder. The attorney claimed that Kurt's case was hopeless, for there was an apparent lack of evidence linking Prozac to violence. Kurt was refused a trial by jury for eighteen months, where he could have submitted a recount of his experience. The drug had been provided by the sheriff department's doctor, who had met Kurt after a minor offense. It is something that would have looked really bad in the press.
On one fateful day, Mr. Ackourey produced graphically disturbing photographs of Kurt's father at the scene of the crime and at autopsy. Kurt was then threatened that if he did not plead guilty, then his family would have to witness the grotesque images at the trial. Mr. Ackourey then left Kurt alone with the disturbing photos. He later returned to find Kurt crying. Kurt finally agreed to plead guilty, and he was immediately driven to the court house to enter a formal guilty plea. After having waited eighteen months, it suddenly took only minutes to get Kurt into court. That is, once he agreed that there would be no jury, and that the drug that had been provided by the sheriff's department would not be mentioned.
Despite the court having been informed that the state's doctors had been continuing to drug Kurt with two major psychogenic tranquilizers, which are usually reserved for schizophrenic patients, the guilty plea was nevertheless accepted. The court made this decision despite evidence that Prozac had dramatically altered both Kurt's thinking and behavior at the time of his crime, and despite the fact that the state itself was actually giving Kurt even more mind-altering pharmaceuticals at the time of his confession. The Court of Common Pleas, of Susquehanna County, PA., accepted Kurt's "confession" for case number 132-1996 CR. Judge Kenneth Seamans sentenced Kurt to 22.5 to 60 years inside a maximum security prison. Kurt has been incarcerated at SCI Frackville Prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania since 1996.
During his sentencing, Kurt addressed his family:
"First and most important, I never meant for this to happen. If I was in control that day, it never would have. I know that doesn't lessen the pain, or the loss, or the anger, but it's the truth. Even though I had no control, I know I did a terrible thing. Words can't begin to describe how I feel. I feel the same hate and anger you do towards myself. The pain I feel will never fade... I am truly sorry for what I have done. I hope my sentence will bring some closure to the family... and to Dad, who I know is watching; I want you to know I always loved you and I never meant to hurt you."
Kurt later received the expert opinion of Donald H. Marks, M.D., informing him that Prozac can cause violent behavior. Kurt appealed to the court with this newly discovered evidence, including additional complaints about his unlawfully coerced guilty plea, and his being under-represented by an attorney who was unable to uncover the scientific information pertaining to his case. On July 22nd, 2003, the same judge who had originally sentenced Kurt, Judge Kenneth Seamans, denied his appeal and excused this by referring to Kurt's appeal as "untimely". The potential of Kurt having been innocent was irrelevant to the judge, because in his opinion, the evidence was delivered too late. Meanwhile, Kurt waits in prison due to his lack of punctuality.
Eight years into Kurt's conviction, the F.D.A. finally admitted that S.S.R.I. anti-depressants, such as Prozac, cause psychotic suicidal episodes; particularly in adolescents and children. These drugs were never actually approved for pediatric use, and such use is termed as an "off label" use. The F.D.A. now requires that all such (S.S.R.I.) drugs carry a Black Box Warning; citing that they are to be considered dangerous for pediatric patients, due to their unpredictable psychiatric effects. A Black Box warning by the F.D.A. is the last step before an official ban is placed upon a substance, but doctors are actually prescribing S.S.R.I. drugs to young people more often in disregard of the warnings.
Since then, it has been revealed that Eli Lilly & Co. (maker of Prozac) covered up its own data from 1988, which linked Prozac to violence. No disciplinary action was taken against them. Such cover-ups by the industry are implicitly encouraged by the F.D.A., and it allows companies to conceal negative findings under the guise of "commercial trade secrets". It has obstinately argued that pharmaceutical corporations cannot be compelled to divulge the results of unflattering research, even when the lack of disclosure will result in deaths. Neither will the F.D.A. release its own so-called "proprietary" drug information, and the agency cites that it is compelled to maintain secrecy by law. There is no such law. Pharmaceutical corporations are actually allowed to cherry pick the results that they wish to be made public.
A 1988 document that Eli Lilly held secret for 10 years indicated that 3.7% of Prozac users attempted suicide, which according to C.N.N. is 12 times higher than for other medications. The same document showed that 2.3% of users suffered from psychotic depression, which is double the rate for other anti-depressive drugs. In one paper called, Activation and Sedation in Fluoxetine Clinical Trials, the company's researchers reported that Prozac produces nervousness, anxiety, agitation or insomnia in 19% of patients. These research papers were 'misplaced' for approximately ten years, and it appears that Eli Lilly went to great lengths to hide them from the public. They became public only after an anonymous source leaked them to the British Medical Journal, which subsequently published them in December of 2004. Eli Lilly now maintains that they were never missing; and moreover, that they are insignificant. Stamped across each document is the key phrase, "Fentress Confidential". Fentress is the surname of one of the victims of a Prozac-induced shooting.
Kurt Danysh filed an appeal on October 11th, 2008, citing new DNA evidence that supports the claim that Prozac played a crucial role in his father's death. Genelex Corporation, a laboratory which tests for the liver enzyme CYP2D6, positively identified Kurt as a poor metabolizer of S.S.R.I. medications, such as Prozac. Kurt's inability to properly metabolize such drugs greatly increases his risk of having poor reactions and bizarre side-effects. His liver cannot properly process these drugs, so they accumulate in his body in massive dosages over very short periods of time.
Kurt requested for Judge Kenneth Seamans to be excused from the hearing, due to him having committed glaring errors, and because Judge Seamans has shown an agenda of suppressing the issues surrounding Kurt's drug intoxication. Judge Kenneth Seamans has repeatedly refused to recuse himself from any of the proceedings.
Susquehanna County District Attorney, Jason Legg, filed an opposition to Kurt's right to even have an appeal hearing, because he likewise claimed that Kurt was too "untimely". Mr. Legg alleged that since the DNA test has existed since the year 2000, Kurt should have discovered it earlier (from his prison cell).
For the court of District Attorney Jason Legg, and Judge Kenneth Seamans, destroying someone's life is given less consideration than their more important face-saving measures of political self-service, and protecting their friends in the sheriff's department. As a result, no jury will hear about the Prozac connection to Kurt's crime. It is a repeat of what has happened in thousands of other cases.
"I would estimate that well over half of all defendant's are on some form of medication -- and I have never seen a case where such medication caused a defendant to lack the capacity to enter a guilty plea. There have been occasions when defendant's have appeared in court intoxicated, and, on those occasions, the pleas were rescheduled."
-- Jason Legg, District Attorney
Jason Legg wrote the above statement on his personal blog; regarding the use of involuntary medications being used during confessions. It is concerning that defendants are encouraged to make guilty pleas while being given (forcefully at times) mind-altering drugs. It tends to make getting 'confessions' rather easy. D.A. Jason Legg is not only okay with this, but he openly boasted about it in public, without any sense of shame. Then he noted that if a prisoner appears intoxicated, then the confession is rescheduled to a time when it doesn't make the officers of the court look so bad.
The Court Documents
In official documents and letters, the prosecution's own expert stated that Kurt's criminal actions were based on drug-induced insanity, which should have provided Kurt with a concrete defense. The sheriff's department was forcing Kurt to take more of these drugs before and during his confession.
One doctor who evaluated Kurt prior to the confession made the following judgment:
Hallucinations, delusions, distortions and illusions are classic symptoms of psychiatric drug intoxication. This combination of symptoms only happens through medication or severe head trauma. It never happens organically. Such "impaired judgment" -- not being able to discern right from wrong -- is the very basis of innocence by reason of insanity.
In the documents we received from District Attorney Jason Legg, the doctor questioned whether Kurt was even fully conscious during the murder of his father. He furthermore reported that the crime was completely without malice, without intent, without motive, and without criminal guilt. Nevertheless, Kurt was charged as if he held full responsibility, and he was given the maximum sentence for third-degree murder in Pennsylvania.
Kurt has gained a paralegal degree whilst incarcerated, and launched the SAVE campaign (Stop Anti-depressants Violence from Escalating) in the hope of saving other people from his fate. When he is released from prison, he intends to help other victims of S.S.R.I. drugs.