Pittman earns new trial in murder of grandparents

CHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The man convicted of murdering his grandparents in 2001 and sentenced to 30 years in prison is getting a new trial.

Christopher Pittman filed a 41-page post conviction relief order and Circuit Court Judge Roger Young sided with Pittman, saying his legal representation during the trial was "ineffective because of his failure to advise Pittman's guardian ad litem of a possible plea to voluntary manslaughter."

As a result, Pittman's legal team did not try to plea bargain the convicted man's sentence down to voluntary manslaughter. A voluntary manslaughter charge would have allowed for Pittman's release after several years behind bars. As it stands, Pittman would not be released from prison until he was 42 years old.

[Read the full post conviction relief order (PDF).]

Pittman was 17 at the time of his conviction, but he was only 12 when he was arrested for his grandparents' murder and one count of arson. The bodies of Joy and Joe Pittman were found in the couple's bed in their home. The convicted teen set the house on fire before fleeing the scene.

During the trial he blamed his actions on the prescription antidepressant Zoloft. He was tried as an adult.

Pittman's new legal team applied for the appeal, arguing that Pittman deserved a new trial because his trial attorney did do everything in his power to have Pittman tried as a juvenile. If he had been tried as a juvenile, Pittman would likely have been released from prison this year.

In the relief order, Judge Young points to testimony given by Pittman "that he would have agreed to the plea offer" had he known about it. Judge Young also concluded that the state would have accepted the lesser voluntary manslaughter charge.

Judge Young's order gives Pittman's attorneys the chance to argue for the voluntary manslaughter charge.

As word of Pittman's retrial spread through the legal community, his former legal representatives spoke on the decision.

"I am very pleased the Christopher Pittman will get another chance at a just result," said Andy Vickery, the lead defense attorney in Pittman's trial.

Vickery declined to comment on adjusting his 2001 defense argument.

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