PLYMOUTH — Lindsay Clancy, the Duxbury woman accused of strangling her three young children, will be examined by a forensic psychologist for evidence of postpartum mood disorder and potential mental health impacts, after her lawyer contended she was subject to a “horrific overmedication” of prescription drugs.
During a brief hearing in Plymouth District Court Friday, a judge granted a request by Clancy’s lawyer, Kevin J. Reddington, that police waive security rules at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where Clancy is a patient, so she can be examined by Paul D. Zeizel, a forensic psychologist.
“We’ve got a person who suffered grievously as a result of what possibly could be postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis,” Reddington said, reiterating his claim that Clancy was overmedicated on medications prescribed for mood disorder, anxiety, and psychosis.
Reddington told Judge John A. Canavan III that Clancy poses no security threat, and that Zeizel has substantial experience treating patients in complex settings, including Afghanistan.
Reddington said Clancy’s mobility is severely restricted as a result of self-inflicted injuries and an apparent suicide attempt — she jumped out of a second-floor window, falling 20 feet — after she allegedly strangled her three children inside the family’s Duxbury home on Jan. 24.
During the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer L. Sprague said Clancy “is not paralyzed.”
“She can move her legs. She can move her arms. She is not someone who doesn’t have the ability to move. She does,” Sprague said.
Sprague urged the judge to insist a third party be in the room during Zeizel’s examination, but Canavan ruled it should be private.
Clancy is slated to be arraigned Tuesday on charges of murder, strangulation, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for the deaths of infant son, Callan; her 5-year-old daughter, Cora; and her 3-year-old son, Dawson.
Already, Reddington, a veteran lawyer who has handled several high-profile cases including homicides in which mental illness was at issue, has signaled he will present a rigorous defense that Clancy should not be held criminally responsible.
He said Clancy was prescribed 13 different medications within a four-month period that are used to treat mood disorders, anxiety, and psychosis.
“One of the major issues here is the horrific overmedication of drugs that caused homicidal ideation, suicidal ideation,” Reddington said in an extensive interview Thursday evening. Lindsay Clancy and her husband, Patrick, “went to doctors repeatedly saying ‘Please help us.’ This was turning her into a zombie ...the medications that were prescribed were over the top, absolutely over the top,” Reddington said.
One week before the killings, Patrick Clancy approached a doctor treating his wife and asked for help managing her medications, Reddington said Friday.
Lindsay Clancy did not misuse her prescribed medication, he added. Reddington said he intends to ask her doctors to speak with him about her care.
“She had medical care and treatment on a regular basis. And her husband was very proactive in trying to protect her and help her with the doctors’ medication she was prescribed,” he said. “They went through hell — and they didn’t come back.”
He added that Lindsay Clancy’s parents were aware of her struggles as well.
In the interview, Reddington also provided additional details on what unfolded inside the Clancy home on Jan. 24. At some point, Patrick Clancy briefly left home to go to CVS and to pick up some takeout food, Reddington said. About four minutes after returning home around 6 p.m., he called 911.
Reddington said medical professionals did not tell Patrick Clancy it would be dangerous for his wife to be left alone with their children. He was out of the house for about 20 minutes, Reddington said.
“He loved her,” he said. “He knew she was a great mother, a fantastic person.”
On a GoFundMe page set up on his behalf, Patrick Clancy recently wrote about his deep love for his children, the excruciating pain of their loss, and how he has forgiven his wife.
“I want to ask all of you that you find it deep within yourselves to forgive Lindsay, as I have,” he wrote.
Reddington said a person whom experts conclude was overmedicated at the time of a crime can invoke a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. Under state law, he said, a person who “suffers from a mental disease or defect” that makes it impossible for them to conform their behavior to legal norms can claim to be not guilty due to their disturbed mental status.
Reddington said he is looking into the possibility her prescription medications resulted in Lindsay Clancy suffering from “involuntary intoxication,” what he said would be a “defect” in her mental status.
Between October and January, Lindsay Clancy was prescribed 13 psychiatric medications in all, Reddington said.
They were: zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien; clonazepam, sold under the brand name Klonopin; diazepam, sold under the brand name Valium; fluoxetine, sold under the brand name Prozac; lamotrigine, sold under the brand name Lamictil; lorazepam, sold under the brand name Ativan; mirtazapine, sold under the brand name Remeron; quetiapine fumarate, sold under the brand name Seroquel; sertraline, sold under the brand name Zoloft, along with trazodone, hydroxyzine, amitriptyline, and buspirone, he said.
He declined to specify the dosages of the medications, the timing of when they were prescribed, or who prescribed them.
Dr. Nancy Byatt, a psychiatry professor at UMass Chan Medical School who often treats women with postpartum mood disorders, said that, generally, the first line of treatment for mild to moderate cases is psychotherapy, not medications. Patients with more severe problems are typically given an antidepressant, which can take several weeks to be effective. In the interim, patients are often given a fast-acting antianxiety medication, such as lorazepam or diazepam, she said.
Byatt spoke in general and would not comment specifically on Clancy’s case or her medications.
But, she added, “When working with a pregnant or postpartum individual, we are often thinking about how can we use medications in a way that we can avoid multiple medications.”
Keith Halpern, a Boston defense lawyer with experience representing people with mental illness, said evidence suggesting that Clancy was overmedicated can create an “overwhelming inference that the person is mentally ill and not in control of what they’re doing on any kind of rational level.”
“There’s no limit to the kind of delusions and impairments and completely insane things that people not in touch with reality can think and believe,” he said.
“Even if they’re not overprescribed or if the person isn’t abusing them, there are medications which taken in the proper dosages can cause psychosis, let alone in a situation where you’re mixing medications,” he said. “I hope when people read about things like this happening, their reaction is to feel sympathy for this woman, because it’s just inconceivable that she did this intentionally.”
Reddington said he will raise the issue of overmedication during Clancy’s arraignment in hopes of convincing the judge she should not be made to await trial at the state’s prison for women, MCI-Framingham, or the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain because of her medical status.
He will recommend she be sent either to her parents’ home under GPS monitoring, the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, or the Worcester Recovery Center, a secure psychiatric facility run by the state’s Department of Mental Health.
“Something humane,’' Reddington said.
Despite her medical status, Clancy is guarded around-the-clock by two Plymouth County deputy sheriffs working paid details financed by Duxbury police, Reddington said. She has not been allowed to speak with anyone on the telephone or have visitors outside of her medical team, social workers, and her previous lawyer, Reddington said.
During Friday’s hearing, the judge allowed Clancy to receive a call from her parents, but not to make outgoing calls.
Reddington said that as he prepared to defend Clancy, he toured the family’s home. A black plastic food container with a clear plastic top — the dinner Patrick Clancy had picked up — was still on the dinner table. Drawings from the children are hanging on the walls, and the rooms are covered with toys.
“It was just so apparent that their focus, their entire focus was on the kids,’' he said. “I mean, the kids literally dominated their entire house, every single room — who’s doing what, little handprints photographs, pictures — it was just overwhelming.”
A private Roman Catholic funeral service was held for the three children in a South Shore church on Friday.
Ivy Scott, Nick Stoico, Kay Lazar, and Jeremiah Manion of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
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