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High court asked to review 12-year-old’s 30-year sentence

If a 12-year-old (who used the prescription drug Zoloft) is charged as an adult and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the shooting deaths of his grandparents, does that constitute “cruel and unusual” punishment and violate the Eighth Amendment?

That is the question attorneys for Christopher Pittman want the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to answer, according to a petition for certiorari filed late yesterday, the Associated Press reports.

Pfizer, maker of the drug, has vehemently denied that depression medication had any influence on the South Carolina boy’s actions in 2001 when he shot his grandparents, Joe and Joy Pittman, and then set their house on fire.

Attorneys for Pittman, who is now 18, argue in the petition that he “is the nation’s only inmate serving such a harsh sentence for an offense committed at such a young age.” Pittman’s cause has been taken up by the Juvenile Justice Foundation of the Carolinas.

Pittman also sued the state of South Carolina claiming he received ineffective legal counsel who advised him not to accept a plea agreement that would have resulted in a 10-year prison sentence. The state attorney general denied the charge, saying Pittman “gambled” on a trial and lost.

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