PITTSBURGH (CBS/AP) A man who claimed mood swings caused by an acne drug made him stab a high school cheerleader to death was convicted Monday of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
John Mullarkey stabbed his ex-girlfriend Demi Cuccia 16 times on Aug. 15, 2007, then slit his own throat in a suicide attempt.
Defense attorney Robert Stewart conceded his client killed Cuccia but argued that Mullarkey, now 20, didn't go to the 16-year-old cheerleader's house with the intent to murder her. Instead, he said, Mullarkey, of Monroeville, acted out of passion and a diminished capacity linked to the acne drug Accutane.
The defense was seeking a third-degree murder conviction, a lesser charge which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 to 40 years.
Accutane was prescribed as an acne drug of last resort because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has linked it to episodes of suicide and depression. It's made by Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., of Nutley, N.J., whose Web site says the drug can cause "serious mental health problems."
Mullarkey had taken Accutane for months, but had stopped taking the drug shortly before the killing, his lawyer said.
Stewart asked for a mistrial earlier Monday because Hoffmann-La Roche pulled the drug from the market Friday citing concerns over pricing of a generic version and other issues.
But Judge Jeffrey Manning said the trial was not tainted because the company's decision had nothing to do with the defense's claims that Accutane affected Mullarkey.
Stewart said he would appeal, citing in part the judge's refusal to grant the mistrial.
"Hoffmann-La Roche pulled this drug and they say it was for economic reasons," he said. "Of course, that's what they're going to say."
Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquilli rejected claims that the drug had anything to do with the case. He said premeditation can be formed in an instant, let alone over the course of stabbing someone 16 times.
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