Tags: Andrea | Yates | Goes | Trial | Monday

Andrea Yates Goes On Trial Monday

Sunday, 17 February 2002 12:00 AM

Yates, who allegedly was suffering from postpartum depression when the children, ages 6 months to 7 years, were killed, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. If convicted, prosecutors plan to ask for the death penalty.

A jury of eight women and four men, including two women with psychology degrees, was selected last month to hear the case against Yates.

As the government opens its case, there may be startling testimony about how the five children were drowned June 20, 2001. Yates called police to the home where they found the bodies of Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months, one of them still in the bathtub. She told the officers she had drowned the children.

The next day, her husband, NASA engineer Russell Yates, stood in front of the house and told reporters his wife had been suffering from postpartum depression for the past two years, had attempted suicide twice, but loved their five children. He has supported his wife since the tragedy, visiting her twice a week in jail.

In a pre-trial hearing Dec. 5, Yates testified his wife was "psychotic" when she drowned the children at their Clear Lake home. He also told investigators his wife had not received adequate treatment for her mental illness.

Her mental state will be the focus of much of the testimony with both the prosecution and defense expected to call some of the nation's best experts. Under Texas law, her defense attorneys will have to show she did not know what she was doing when she killed her children.

"She's got to show that she didn't know her conduct was wrong," says Neil McCabe, a professor of criminal law at the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

Jurors probably will have to sort through the conflicting opinions of psychologists and other experts, but in the end, McCabe believes they may take a simple approach.

"In these kinds of cases, the jury is not going to be necessarily bound by what the law actually says," he says. "In these cases, the jurors are going to want to do justice."

Another aspect peculiar to Texas is the jurors will not be told finding Yates innocent by reason of insanity means the judge would send her to a mental hospital. The commitment could be as long as the judge finds fits her case.

Although jurors may have learned about the rule outside the courtroom, they will not be told during the trial. In pre-trial arguments, defense attorneys failed to get State District Judge Belinda Hill to waive the rule, which McCabe questions.

"I think the jury should have before it an understanding of how things actually work," McCabe said. "The rule that you don't tell the jury works in favor of the government."

Yates' husband and possibly other members of the family may be called as witnesses.

If Andrea Yates is convicted, the same jury will determine her punishment in the second phase of the trial. Prosecutors plan to ask the jury to consider the death penalty in addition to life in prison, but they could change their strategy during the trial.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Yates, who allegedly was suffering from postpartum depression when the children, ages 6 months to 7 years, were killed, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. If convicted, prosecutors plan to ask for the death penalty. A jury of eight women and four men, including...
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2002-00-17
Sunday, 17 February 2002 12:00 AM
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