Ask TX Governor to pardon Courtney Dunkin, 15 y.o. convicted as adult while taking Paxil.
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Courtney Dunkin was a mere 15 years old when she fatally shot her adopted mother, Betty Dunkin, while she was under the influence, and suffering from involuntary intoxication, due to the harmful anti-depressant Paxil (Paroxetine). She was tried as an adult and wrongfully sentenced, due to lack of evidence, to Life in prison in the TX. Dept. of Criminal Justice.
It wouldn’t be until 2003 when the evidence she needed to prove her innocence would arise. Courtney had been hospitalized in 1994 for depression and prescribed the drug Paxil, which had unknown side effects at that time. A later study conducted by the FDA in 2003 proved that Paxil must NEVER be prescribed to children under the age of 18, as it was proven to increase the risk of suicidal ideation and behavior in children, as well as many other dangerous/harmful side-effects. This drug, which was supposed to save Courtney’s life as it helped her past fragile teenage years, became the main cause of destroying her life. By 2003 it would be far too late to bring this evidence to the Court in Courtney’s defense.
After the FDA declared their study about the medicine which would prove that Courtney was not responsible for her own actions nor in a lucid state of mind, she faced another harsh twist in the story of her life: her appeals had been exhausted and only the trial officials (Judge, Sherriff, District Attorney, and State Governor) can grant her relief regarding this new evidence.
Courtney was a typical teenager who was living in a state of emotional disturbance because of a troubled family life. He father was an alcoholic and having been abandoned by her mother, she was adopted by her paternal grandparents, John and Betty Dunkin, at the age of 5. Then shortly afterwards, at the age of 11, she suffered the loss of her grandfather – the only father she had ever known – to cancer, and her life shattered.
In a downward spiral of suicidal despair, she shot her mother, and then sought to run away and commit suicide. Never once did she realize that the very medication she was taking is what caused those destructive thoughts.
Upon her arrest she was lost and confused with no guardian, no parental guidance, nor any knowledge of her rights or the juvenile legal system. Police and investigators used this naiveté to their advantage despite Courtney’s pleas that she didn’t know why she had done what she did and that she was obviously mentally disturbed and suicidal. Instead they painted a picture of her as a remorseless, cold-hearted monster and created a motive that they knew would garner a conviction. Instead of helping a mentally ill little girl, they only served to hurt her further.
Heartbroken and remorseful for her actions as a child and, 20 yrs. later, armed with the knowledge of the harmful side-effects of the medication she was taking, Courtney has managed to make sense of how such a horrible tragedy could occur. Courtney doesn’t want the dangerous effects of this drug to go un-noticed or for any other children to be subjected to the awful experiences she has.
Courtney’s mental state and the influence of this poisonous drug should be brought to the attention of the Courts. Had this evidence been available during her trial in 1995, the outcome would likely have been very different. Please sign her petition today, ask friends, family, co-workers to sign also to help Courtney get the attention she needs from officials to grant her the freedom and second chance that she deserves.
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
P. O. Box 13401
Austin, Texas 78711-3401
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