July 26, 2006


Jury finds Yates not guilty in drownings (ANGELA K. BROWN, 7/26/06, Associated Press)

In a dramatic turnaround from her first murder trial, Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday in the drowning of her children in the bathtub.

The 42-year-old woman will be committed to a state mental hospital and held until she is no longer deemed a threat. If she had been convicted of murder, she would have been sentenced to life in prison.

She's ill, not evil. The people who left her with the kids should be prosecuted.

Andrea Yates: More To The Story: As a judge formally sentences the convicted murderer, TIME's Timothy Roche examines the role of a key prosecution witness (TIMOTHY ROCHE , 3/18/02, TIME)

In Texas, the law on insanity defenses is among the most restrictive in the nation. So narrow are the nuances of the state's centuries-old law that it was not enough for Yates' defense lawyers to simply prove that she twice attempted suicide, had been hospitalized four times for psychiatric care and nursed a psychosis before the drownings clearly documented in thousands of pages of medical records. No, Andrea's motives may have been delusional, but if she were able to distinguish right from wrong — good from evil — while committing the crime, jurors had little choice but to reject her plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and convict her.

To reach their verdict, jurors seemed to rely heavily on the persuasive testimony of a famous forensic psychiatrist, Park Dietz, who was paid $500 an hour by prosecutors to dispute claims that Andrea Yates was insane under the Texas law. Now, TIME has learned, questions are surfacing about the reliability of the state's key witness who has admitted that he mixed up facts that prosecutors wound up emphasizing to the jury. Dietz also has told TIME that he opposes the very law that he helped prosecutors apply to Yates and jurors used to deny her insanity defense. [...]

While defense lawyers called several expert witnesses who had different opinions about Andrea's actual diagnosis, each told jurors she obviously had been psychotic and delusional at the time. After her arrest, jail psychiatrist Melissa Ferguson testified, Andrea was put on medications that enabled her to finally talk about the visions and voices that she says guided her actions. It was only after she was placed in a jail cell, naked, on suicide watch that Andrea spoke of the Satan inside her and the only was to be rid of him: She had to be executed. And she had to kill the children, as Satan demanded, to get the death penalty.

Andrea tried to explain. "It was the seventh deadly sin. My children weren't righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them they could never be saved," she told the jail psychiatrist. "They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell."

Jurors took notes as Rusty testified about his life with Andrea, whom he had met when they were both 25 years old and living in the same apartment complex in Houston. He told them how their family had grown, and how they had moved from a house in suburbia to a camping trailer to a bus converted into a motor home, where Andrea focused on raising the toddlers. After the birth of their fourth child, Luke, in 1999, Andrea tried twice to commit suicide. She was hospitalized both times and was diagnosed with postpartum depression and psychosis.

The couple and their four sons moved from the bus into their house on Beachcomber Lane in a Houston suburb. She recovered while using Haldol, but eventually stopped taking the medication. Against the advice of her psychiatrist, Andrea soon became pregnant again with their fifth child, Mary. Within months, following the death of her ailing father, her psychosis returned. Instead of taking her back to the same doctor who'd treated her before, Rusty told jurors that he and Andrea went to the Devereux-Texas Treatment Network, where Mohammed Saeed became Andrea's psychiatrist. Rusty testified that he never knew that Andrea had visions and voices; he said he never knew she had considered killing the children. Neither did Dr. Saeed, even though the delusions could have been found in medical records from 1999. Andrea would not talk or eat.

After only slight improvement, Andrea was released from Devereux. A month later, she had another episode. Rusty took her back to Devereux. Again, she was released. Dr. Saeed reluctantly prescribed Haldol, the same drug that worked in a drug cocktail for her in 1999. But after a few weeks, he took her off the drug, citing his concerns about side effects. (For more on Saeed's response, see our previous examination of the Yates trial.) Though Andrea's condition seemed to be worsening two days before the drownings, when her husband drove her to Saeed's office, Rusty testified, the doctor refused to try Haldol longer or return her to the hospital. Rusty was frustrated, he told the jury, and he didn't know what else to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 26, 2006 8:56 PM

Her ex is the evil one.....

Posted by: Sandy P at July 26, 2006 10:48 PM

I did not know until I read just two days ago that she killed her children in the hour between her husband's departure from work and when her mother was to arrive to "help".

She should have killed herself instead, which is one reason why she will be 'guilty' for the rest of her life. Her ex-husband should be sentenced to a very small cell with Michael Schiavo.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 26, 2006 10:59 PM

Please, it is utter nonsense that she is not culpable but her husband is.

The jury, on the other hand, yes, they are culpable. I think they can be called accessories after the fact.

The state of texas is culpable also since it alllows the travesty called the insanity defense.

Posted by: Bob at July 26, 2006 11:41 PM

She's crazy. He isn't. We don't hold people morally culpable when they're nuts.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 12:21 AM

Ok, so let me get this straight. Her cruel murder of her children should result in:

A: The death of the children of course.
B: Prosecution and probable ruination of those who allowed her, the mother, to have custody of her own children.
C: Her freedom from all charges.

Strange society to wish for. Umm, might as well blame the all-knowing God too.

I understand the difficulty in this case, but I am not so glib as to immediately transfer all blame to people that did not KILL THE KIDS.

Posted by: darryl at July 27, 2006 1:05 AM

What cruelty? She's nuts, not cruel.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 7:58 AM

She knew it was wrong. So she was evil. Her "illness" did not cause her to do this. Her underlying evil did.

Though, after reading about the husband's comments on the Today Show, I don't want to defend him. His indifference to the death of his kids is appalling. If they were my kids, the day the quacks let her out would be her last day on earth.

Posted by: Bob at July 27, 2006 10:06 AM

If she knew it was wrong why did she act as if it were right?

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 10:10 AM

Exactly what did she ever do to prove that she was crazy before murdering her children?

Posted by: Brandon at July 27, 2006 11:19 AM

"why did she act as if it were right?"

(1) To support her insanity plea.
(2) Evil people believe their actions are right.

(however, she's probably crazy)

Posted by: h-man at July 27, 2006 11:24 AM

There's a very real possibility that this woman will "get help" for her mental illness and walk in a few years after being diagnosed as "cured."

That's a big problem for society, since she had previously been diagnosed with problems, and in fact was hiding the fact she wasn't taking her medication. What's to stop that from happening again? Why doesn't society get to protect itself from her? We protect ourselves from serial killers who can't help themselves by locking them up for good (or putting them to death).

Not that I especially care that much about this. After so many years of media coverage here in Houston and beyond, thank goodness it's over.

Posted by: kevin whited at July 27, 2006 11:47 AM

Yes, she should certainly remain in state custody, though not in a prison.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 12:36 PM


No, they don't--that's why they hide their actions. Klansmen wear hoods.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 12:38 PM

They know that society thinks it's wrong. Not the same as believing it wrong for them to do the deed.

Posted by: h-man at July 27, 2006 1:03 PM

Yes. She doesn't know. She's crazy. They're evil.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 2:01 PM

Which is what I said in my 1st post. They (the klan or speculatively Ms Yates) know it's wrong by societies standards, but they consider it "right" for them to do it anyway. Which (again speculating) means she could talk as if it were right (1)to bolster her insanity plea or (2) because she really does think it's right for her, all the while knowing that society considers it wrong. I'm so frigging confused by the previous sentence I'll go into a murderous rage, if I have to discuss this again.

BTW she's probably both insane and "legally insane" which I also said in my 1st post. Her husband is probably not "evil" just stupid. After a conversation with you or Andrea, I know how he feels.

Posted by: h-man at July 27, 2006 2:22 PM

No, they don't think it's right, which is why they hide. She didn't.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 2:59 PM

But you say her husband knew it was wrong, but did it anyway. Why do you think he wanted his kids dead exactly? Or are you saying that he thought what he did was right thus proving he was insane and therefore should not be prosecuted contra your original statement?

Btw, the klan analysis you offer can become confused, because they may want their identity covered not because of their shame of the act or self knowledge of it's wrongness, but because they are aware that society views it as wrong and therefore they have "practical" reasons for hiding their identity.

I would like to think you are correct that they carry this shame in their consciousness, and I'm sure some Klan and other criminals do, but unfortunately many such people are quite pleased with themselves and have a high self esteem.

Posted by: h-man at July 27, 2006 3:42 PM

He needn't have wanted them dead to have been criminally irresponsible with their lives.

If they had high self esteem they wouldn't be so terrified of brown people.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 3:48 PM


You over analyze. I know nothing about the Klan but let's assume some people mistreat people (brown, black, whatever) because they think it's fun. Some beause (as you suggest) they fear that person. Some because it makes them feel like a big man. Some because of envy. Some because they're bored. Some because they think they are disciplining a troublesome soul as if they were children. Some for reasons of monetary gain. Some for revenge for some previous wrong or imagined wrong.

Lay down on the couch, and tell me...why would you mistreat someone, if that is conceivable to you. I'll take notes.

Posted by: h-man at July 27, 2006 4:22 PM

Another question for you. Can a crazy person be evil? In other words are not some crazy people loving and caring while others do bad things?

Posted by: h-man at July 27, 2006 4:27 PM


Nope, it's all just because they think themselves inferior, with ample justification.

No, a crazy person can not by definition be evil.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 4:30 PM

I hope she never "gets well" enough to realize what she's done. That really would be cruel and unusual punishment.

Posted by: erp at July 27, 2006 4:36 PM

(1) Nope to what exactly.

(2) Glad to know that you are clean on the klan justifications, because I guess you think you are not inferior to browns. Good to know, OJ. Perhaps someone less sophisticated might think your feelings of superiority to browns would not be a good thing.

(3) Define crazy anyway you want, but certainly some people are probably evil predating their craziness and after they are cured and due a good imitation of evilness while they are crazy. But what would I know.

Posted by: h-man at July 27, 2006 5:00 PM

Nope to your first paragraph of justifications for racism--it's just inadequacy.

It's the Christian and American thing. All Men are Created equal.

Of course they can be evil when they aren't crazy. That's a truism.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2006 6:58 PM