Andrea Yates was found innocent by reason of insanity Wednesday in the bathtub drownings of her children.
Yates’ attorneys never disputed that she drowned 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah in their suburban Houston home in June 2001. But they said she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis.
In a delusional state, they said, she thought Satan was inside her and that she was saving them from hell when she systematically drowned the children one by one in the family bathtub, then laid four of them on a bed, leaving Noah face down in the water. She called the police and then her husband to the house.
"There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it. " Martin Luther King
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 27, 2006 6:45:21 GMT -5
Verdict not likely to broaden state's insanity law
The jurors who reached today's verdict will likely never again face anything more important or challenging in their lives, said Houston criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Brian Wice.
"I would be lying if I told you that (the verdict) was something I expected in my heart of my hearts, given the most difficult hurdles the defense had to overcome obviously, the deaths of five small, innocent children and a legal definition of insanity that is razor thin," Wice said.
"But having said that, I've never been more proud of a Harris County jury in the 27 years I've been practicing criminal law here. They took facts that make most of us either want to cry or seek some type of horrific vengeance and they were able to nevertheless come to a verdict that was the only proper verdict under the law and the facts," Wice said.
"They will never, as long as they live, do anything as difficult, as gut-wrenching or ultimately more important than what they did today."
Today's verdict also underscores how important it was for a non-death qualified jury to hear Yates' case. Death penalty opponents were not automatically excluded from serving on the jury this time since the death penalty was no longer an option, having been rejected by another jury during Yates' 1st trial 4 years ago.
As a result, Yates may have ended up with a more liberal panel that was more sympathetic to her defense, legal experts say.
That was not the case during Yates' 1st trial 4 years ago, when the death penalty was sought, prompting opponents of such punishment to be excluded from sitting on the jury.
The drastically different outcomes of Yates' 2 trials "merely underscores what we as defense attorneys knew all along that death- qualified jurors are much less likely to accept an insanity defense," Wice said.
Wice also predicts today's verdict likely will not have any effect on broadening the state's insanity law.
"Prosecutors and legislators could say, 'Wait a second this is as terrible a case as we are likely to see a case that tested the limits... and the jury acquitted her. If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" Wice said.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 28, 2006 8:04:13 GMT -5
Yates' Ex-Husband Criticizes Prosecutors
Rusty Yates lashed out Thursday at prosecutors who spent five years pursuing murder charges against his ex-wife, saying they misrepresented certain details of the day Andrea Yates drowned their 5 children.
Rusty Yates told The Associated Press that Andrea Yates never told him, "I finally did it" in her telephone call to him after the drownings, as a Houston police officer testified during her 2nd trial.
"It's been printed in papers as fact, and it's absolutely not true," he said. "Much of the state's case was built on lies."
A jury on Wednesday found Andrea Yates not guilty by reason of insanity in the June 2001 bathtub drownings of her children. She was retried after an earlier murder conviction was overturned because of erroneous testimony about a nonexistent "Law & Order" television episode.
On Thursday, the 42-year-old will be committed Thursday to a state mental hospital. Rusty Yates said that on the day his children died, Andrea had called him and asked him to come home. When he and his mother arrived and learned the news from police officers, he reminded his mother saying that Andrea had filled the bathtub for no apparent reason about a month or so earlier.
"I said, `I guess she'd been thinking about this for some time and finally did it," Yates said. He said an officer must have overhead the conversation and took it out of context.
Prosecutors also seemed to change their theory about his now ex-wife's motive, Yates said.
"In the first trial, they said Andrea did this to try to get out, whatever that means, which sounded like she wasn't happy at home ... and this time they said she wanted to run off with me into the sunset," he said. "Well, which is it?
"The fact is, they spent 5 years and still don't have a reason why she did it because they are unwilling to look at the fact she was psychotic. That's the only reasonable explanation for her behavior."
Prosecutors Kaylynn Williford and Joe Owmby did not immediately return calls seeking comment Thursday.
Yates, an engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said he plans to visit his ex-wife regularly, but his role in her life will diminish as he moves on with his own. He remarried in March and has now has two stepsons.
"I don't forget my children, and I don't forget Andrea, but I don't dwell on it either. I try to remember my children fondly," he said. "I'm building new life ... and have a new family and am more focused on them."
For his ex-wife to ever be released from the mental hospital will require a complicated evaluation process. Experts say it can take decades before psychiatrists decide a patient is healthy enough to leave, and even then a judge can reject those findings.
Yates said he was nervous on Wednesday as he waited for the verdict. The family, which has always supported Andrea, was devastated when she was convicted at the first trial 2002.
Yates had testified for the defense in that first trial, and he said Thursday he didn't know why he wasn't asked to testify again.
"In some respects," he said, "I know Andrea better than anybody."
The defense attorneys never disputed that Andrea drowned the children, but they she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and, in a delusional state, believed Satan was inside her.
She believed she was trying to save the children from hell by drowning 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah, they told the jury.
"It's this simple: This lady never did anything, anything wrong in her whole life," defense attorney Wendell Odom said. "She's mentally ill. She wakes up one morning. She drowns her 5 kids. Come on - we all know she's insane, and it's a shame that it took us this long to finally get the right verdict."
Prosecutors had maintained that although Andrea Yates was mentally ill, she failed to meet the state's definition of insanity: being so severely mentally ill that she did not know her actions were wrong.
The foreman of the jury said Thursday that he and the others used both their heads and their hearts in finding her not guilty by reason of insanity. He said they had "some emotional difficulty" reaching its unanimous verdict would have had an easier time if they could have found her "guilty but insane."
Wednesday morning, before announcing the verdict, they asked to see a picture of the five young children, then sat in silence for 10 minutes - 2 minutes for each child - remembering the victims, foreman Todd Frank, a 33-year-old marketing manager with his own young son, told "Good Morning America" on Thursday.
"We understand that she knew it was legally wrong," he said. "But in her delusional mind, in her severely mentally ill mind, we believe that she thought what she did was right."