Von Grabow Defense Blocked from Showing Mental Illness, Acne Med Link in Longmont Slaying
A Boulder District judge won’t allow defense attorneys to introduce testimony at an upcoming murder trial by a psychiatrist who says he has drawn a link between an acne medication and psychosis.
Aidan Von Grabow, 17, is charged as an adult with first-degree murder attempted murder, arson, felony menacing, stalking, assault, harassment and numerous violent crime sentencing enhancements.
Von Grabow is accused of fatally stabbing Makayla Grote, 20, at her Longmont apartment in November of 2017. Police believe he intended to kill Grote’s younger sister, who prosecutors say was on his “death list.”
He has pleaded not guilty and is currently being held without bond.
District Judge Andrew Hartman issued a written ruling on Thursday that stated defense attorneys won’t be allowed to use testimony by Dr. Doug Bremner, a psychiatrist known for his studies on isotretinoin, which is better known for its brand name, Accutane.
The drug is used to treat acne, and debate has existed for decades as to whether it can cause depression and psychosis.
Bremner is cited in a New York Times article about the drug published in 2002 after a teen, Charles Bishop, committed suicide by flying his plane into the side of a building in Florida. His mother sued Hoffmann-La Roche, blaming Accutane for her son’s depression, but later dropped the suit.
“The court found that Dr. Bremner’s opinion regarding the casual connection between Isotretinoin and psychosis is not supported by scientifically reliable principles,” Hartman’s ruling stated.
Defense attorneys raised the possibility last year that they would cite the drug in their defense of Von Grabow, arguing that it might have explained his alleged actions. Court records show that Von Grabow was prescribed the drug in October of 2017, a little more than a month before he allegedly killed Makayla Grote by stabbing..
The judge ruled that the probative value of Bremner’s testimony would be outweighed by the possibility that it could mislead the jury and confuse the issues. He ruled that parts of Bremner’s study of the link between the drug and psychiatric problems, specifically the use of PET scans, is flawed.
The court also took into consideration that Von Grabow was accused of stealing his mother’s care a month before taking the drug. He was briefly hospitalized for making threatening statements on social media after taking the drug but found to not be a threat to himself or others. About two weeks before, he is alleged to have killed Grote, Von Grabow declined further behavioral health treatment, court records show.
“The Court finds that the temporal correlations between the use of Isotretinoin and the alleged offenses may rise to the level of association, but it does not rise to the level of causation,” the ruling states.
Von Grabow is expected to stand trial in May.
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