Tags: Yates' | Mind | Focus | Opening | Statements

Yates' Mind Focus of Opening Statements

Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM

Opening statements were presented in the trial of Yates, who could face the death penalty if she is convicted of capital murder charges. The 37-year-old mother, who admitted killing the children ages 6 months to 7 years, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

Yates, wearing a gray, knit dress, conferred with her attorneys when she entered the courtroom and then sat quietly at the defense table.

As the trial began, prosecutor Joe Owmby told the jury of eight women and four men Yates had confessed to arriving officers on June 20, 2001 she had drowned all her children in the family bathtub at their Clear Lake home.

"There is no question that Andrea Yates had some form of mental illness," he said.

But Owmby said prosecutors would show she planned to kill her children and methodically drowned them one by one after waiting for her husband to leave for work. She then placed four of them on a mattress and called police, he said.

Owmby said the defense would argue Yates did not get proper treatment, but that is not the issue for the prosecution. He said the state presumes Yates was sane.

"We don't have to defend the mental health system of the United States," the prosecutor said. "We don't have to agree that postpartum depression is a problem. We know it's a problem."

With an insanity plea, Yates' attorneys must prove to the jury Yates did not know that what she was doing was wrong when she drowned Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months.

In his opening remarks, defense attorney George Parnham said expert witnesses would testify Yates suffered from postpartum depression with psychotic features, which he called "the most cruel and severe of mental illnesses."

The defense will show how the mental illness caused a loving mother, who often made costumes for her children and organized birthday parties, lose touch with reality and take the lives of her own children, he told the jury.

Among several expert witnesses, Parnham said, will be a Houston psychologist who examined Yates the day after the tragedy and found she was "off the chart. She was one of the most mentally ill individuals I had ever seen."

Yates had been under treatment for postpartum depression for two years, attempted suicide twice, and usually was on anti-psychotic medication, the defense attorney said. She was not on the medication June 20, however, when she drowned the five children.

"She was not able to render a determination of wrongfulness," Parnham said.

Facing Yates in the courtroom, the defense lawyer said she now receives the anti-psychotic drug Haldol to prevent her from slipping into psychosis again.

Twenty witnesses were sworn in to testify in the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks.

If Yates is convicted, the same jury will be asked in the punishment phase to determine if she receives a life prison term or the death sentence. If Yates is found innocent by reason of insanity, the judge would order her to a mental hospital.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Opening statements were presented in the trial of Yates, who could face the death penalty if she is convicted of capital murder charges. The 37-year-old mother, who admitted killing the children ages 6 months to 7 years, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. ...
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2002-00-18
Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM
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