The case gained much notoriety in connection with the Zoloft defense, by which counsel argued that trial court erred in failing to charge the jury on the lesser included offenses of involuntary and voluntary manslaughter. In South Carolina, involuntary manslaughter is (1) the unintentional killing of another without malice, but while engaged in an unlawful activity not naturally tending to cause death or great bodily harm; or (2) the unintentional killing of another without malice, while engaged in a lawful activity with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Pittman argues that he was entitled to an involuntary manslaughter charge because the killing of his grandparents was unintentional and reckless. Pittman claimed that taking Zoloft was a “lawful activity” because he was taking medicine prescribed to him by his doctor, and while under the influence of the legally ingested Zoloft, he killed his grandparents “unintentionally.” The trial court expressed reservation in accepting defense counsel’s argument that the ingestion of Zoloft satisfied the lawful act component required for an involuntary manslaughter charge. The trial court also found there was “no evidence under the law that this conduct was reckless conduct.”
The Supreme Court concluded that Pittman's conduct extended far beyond recklessness:
The record reflects that after a confrontation with his grandfather, Appellant deliberately waited until his grandparents retired to bed, retrieved his shotgun, loaded the shotgun, entered their bedroom, and intentionally shot his grandparents. Although Appellant argues that the shootings were unintentional and reckless, he submitted no evidence to support that finding. Like the trial court, we find the defense’s argument that the ingestion of Zoloft qualifies as a lawful act in the context of an involuntary manslaughter charge to be unconvincing. Accordingly, we conclude that the record contains no evidence upon which a jury could find that these killings were unintentional and a result of recklessness. Therefore, the trial court did not err in failing to charge the jury regarding involuntary manslaughter.