Guilty Verdict in Accutane Murder Case
The Effects of Strong Acne Medication Unsuccessful As Murder Defense
John Mullarky of Monroeville, Pa., was convicted of first-degree murder on Monday, June 29, following a highly publicized trial involving the popular, and now discontinued, acne medication Accutane.
The jury deliberated for less than two hours before issuing its verdict, as reported by KDKA of Pittsburgh .
Mullarkey, 20, was charged with criminal homicide after fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend, 16-year-old cheerleader Demi Cuccia, in August of 2007. Mullarkey was 18 when the murder took place. Ultimately dying of a shoulder wound, Cuccia was stabbed a total of 16 times in her upper left chest, arm, and shoulder. The unforgiveable crime was committed in Cuccia’s Pennsylvania home where Mullarkey went to discuss what seemed to him like their looming break up.
Mullarkey was hospitalized after he slashed his own throat following the killing. Mullarkey claims he is an avid hunter, and cited this as his reason for carrying a knife at the time, insisting that it was not an uncommon occurrence.
The Accutane Defense
While recovering in the hospital from the self-inflicted 10-inch laceration across his throat, Mullarkey communicated his criminal defense to a county homicide detective on an eraser board, writing,
If I did something—no, erase that—if somebody did something bad and they were taking medication, would that be a defense?
Following suit, his lawyers made efforts to reduce the conviction to third-degree murder (not premeditated), alleging that it was a crime of passion following his breakup with Cuccia, inflamed by depression resulting from the cessation of Mullarkey’s use of Accutane, a powerful acne medication.
Although the murder was not blamed on Mullarkey’s intake of Accutane, it was the defense’s hope that the drug’s side effects would be deemed as a heavy influence on Mullarkey’s mental state. Prior to discontinuing his use of the drug, Mullarkey complained that Accutane had made him depressed.
Prosecuting attorney Mark Tranquilli asserted that Mullarkey killed Cuccia solely because he refused to accept the inevitable; he was about to get dumped after their tumultuous two year relationship.
However, the defense argued that Mullarkey’s mental thought process at the time of the murder was deeply impaired by his previous use of Accutane, and his subsequent and difficult state of
cold turkey. His defense lawyers contended that because of his recent use of Accutane, Mullarkey could not fully form the intent to kill.
Accutane Pulled From Market
Accutane was pulled from the U.S. market on Friday, June 26 – the last day of Mullarkey’s trial before the jury deliberated – after juries rewarded at least $33 million in damages to users who blamed the drug for bowel disease. Roche Labs of Nutley, New Jersey, who manufactured the drug in the United States, named reasons for the decision mainly as concerns over the competitive pricing of generic versions and not the drug’s side effects.
In light of this news, defense attorney Robert Stewart asked presiding Judge Jeffrey Manning to either delay the trial or grant a mistrial just before closing arguments. Judge Manning dismissed this motion because, at present, there is no evidence linking Accutane to altered mental states or homicidal behavior. He resolved that the defense could raise the issues surrounding Accutane’s influence in the case if they planned to pursue an appeal.