Justice for Andrea Yates

Today Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the drownings of her five children in 2001. She will be committed to a state mental hospital. Under Texas law, as I understand it, she cannot be released without a court order. As sick as she is, I doubt she will ever be released.

I’m going to repeat something I wrote awhile back about Yates —

I followed the Andrea Yates trial closely, and came to the conclusion that Texas is not only like a whole ‘nother country. It’s also stuck in a whole ‘nother century, sometime in the Dark Ages. The Texas justice system does not recognize brain disease; to them, insanity is a character flaw, or maybe devil possession.

The early news stories about Andrea Yates called her illness “postpartum depression,” but the truth is that she was a five-alarm schizophrenic. She had been sinking deeper and deeper into psychosis for several years, had attempted suicide, and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. In the months before the killings, one of her friends was so alarmed at her behavior she was keeping notes.

Two weeks before she killed her children, a bleeping incompetent psychiatrist took her off the antipsychotic meds — cold turkey — that had propped her up and kept her functional. A couple of days before she killed her children, her husband Randy took her back to this psychiatrist and begged him to put her back on her meds; the doc refused.

Once in county jail, the psychiatric staff proclaimed she was the most psychotic inmate they had ever seen. Several of the prison psychologists and psychiatrists — people who worked with her for many weeks — testified at trial that Yates was massively delusional. A prominent neuropsychiatrist tested her and diagnosed severe schizophrenia, noting major frontal lobe impairment. During her trial, Yates had to be drugged into catatonia so she could sit in her seat and not try to catch flies with her tongue.

The jury was told, over and over, that Yates had a disease of the brain. They were not told that, if found not guilty by reason of insanity, Yates would not have gone free. The court would have ordered her to be hospitalized, not to be released without another court order.

The prosecutors trotted out two primary witnesses. One was the psychiatrist who had taken her off her meds and who would have been charged with murder if I’d had anything to say about it. He said he saw no sign of psychosis in Yates. One suspects this guy couldn’t find shit in an outhouse.

The other witness was a paid expert psychiatrist who is also a consultant for “Law and Order.” He said that Yates had gotten the idea for killing her children from a “Law and Order” episode. Later it was determined that there was no such episode; it had been scripted but never produced.

After several weeks of testimony, the jury took all of four hours to find Yates guilty of murder. They decided she couldn’t have been crazy because she had called 911 to report the childrens’ deaths. Yes, this makes sense. A crazy person would have made up some story about intruders to avoid punishment.

This case should have never gone to trial at all. The taxpayers of Texas paid millions of dollars just so some hotshot prosecutors could get their names in the papers. Finally, the second jury got it right.

The Houston Chronicle has been doing excellent reporting on the Yates killings and the trials. You can start here and go back to the beginning.

Update: I’m listening to some attorney, Susan Filan, on Countdown saying that Yates got a “pass.” Filan doesn’t even have the basic facts right. She keeps saying Yates had postpartum depression; no, she had postpartum psychosis. Way different. She said Yates voluntarily stopped taking her meds. No, her psychiatrist took her off her meds, cold turkey, two weeks before the killings. Filan doesn’t understand psychosis. The fact that Yates waited until her husband had left for work to kill the children; the fact that she called police after; doesn’t mean she wasn’t acting in a psychotic state. Psychotics often can organize themselves and carry out plans. But they do what they do because they aren’t perceiving reality.

I’m really disappointed that Countdown didn’t have someone who actually knows something about the case to talk about it.

16 thoughts on “Justice for Andrea Yates

  1. Babs,

    If a jury got it right, and the Houston Chronicle did good reporting on the Yates story, maybe Texas isn’t a “whole ‘nother country in a whole ‘nother century.” I resent such stereotyping, which I hear most often from Missourians I know. How much time have you spent in Texas? I’ll never deny the idiot population here, but please lose the broad brush.

  2. If a jury got it right, and the Houston Chronicle did good reporting on the Yates story, maybe Texas isn’t a “whole ‘nother country in a whole ‘nother century.”

    It’s barbaric that this case even went to court. In most states it wouldn’t have.

  3. The people who should have been on trial are those who are responsible for the government agencies whose role is to protect children; that is assuming that Texas has such agencies, or do children have to fend for themselves down there?

  4. Susan Filan almost made me throw a shoe through the TV. Does she want Nancy Grace’s job so bad she can taste it or what? I thought the woman was about to have some kind of rage-induced orgasm.

    That was one of the most shameful performances I’ve ever seen from an “officer of the court.”

  5. The people who should have been on trial are those who are responsible for the government agencies whose role is to protect children; that is assuming that Texas has such agencies

    I’m sure Texas has such agencies, but they wouldn’t have been involved in this case because Yates’s children weren’t being abused before she killed them.

    I think the psychiatrist who was treating her at the time should have had his license yanked, though.

  6. Speaking of Nancy Grace, she kinda reminds me of the sea witch Ursula in “The Little Mermaid”.(‘cept she’s always pissed off)
    “Rage -induced orgasm” is a hoot! Great line, I’ll have to work that into my stand -up act, with your permission….

  7. apocalipstick — I suggest you and anyone else who caught Filan’s act email Countdown and complain:

    [email protected]

    Please be polite; just say that Filan had her facts wrong, and her commentary didn’t come up to Countdown’s usual standards.

  8. I’m glad that the poor woman finally will receive the treatment she needs. My heart always went out to her and her family, no one in there right mind would drown their children in cold blood. The Texas Courts have a lot to answer for.

  9. You are right on. Thank God this jury was a little smarter. But I’ll tell you the fact that the prosecution had the balls to use that same lying doctor that told the whopper about Law and Order just frosts me. Does anyone know if they plan to go after her on the other two children? There must be some nefarious reason they only tried her for 3 of the kids. The prosecution is scum in my estimation.

    By the way, Catherine Crier gets major kudos from me on this case, she’s had it right from the beginning. AND she has been doing anti-administration editorials that are hot. Yesterday she went after signing statements. She’s the only one that seems to get it right. It scares me she’s being so honest, I hope she’s not putting her job is jeopardy.

  10. Justice in texas??? Go friggin figure!!!! It is one for the history books to be sure..

  11. Of course she was/is insane. Anyone who commits a murder (let alone her own children) is insane. Now would you like to be the one (if it was possible) to explain to the children why that is an excuse to avoid the death penalty? Society has an obligation to prevent murderers from harming anyone ever again, the death penalty. Insanity is NOT an excuse for murder and the penalty for murder should be death in all cases and as soon as possible.

  12. Anyone who commits a murder (let alone her own children) is insane.

    Not true. First, “insane” is not a medical term. It has no meaning in modern psychiatric medicine, which makes its use in law problematic because people can’t agree on what it means. The medical term is “psychotic.” Only a very tiny portion of people who commit homicides are psychotic.

    Society has an obligation to prevent murderers from harming anyone ever again, the death penalty.

    Yates won’t harm anyone again. She’s going to be heavily medicated and hospitalized the rest of her life. The hell she’s in now is that when her mind clears enough to realize her children are dead, she relapses back into psychosis.

  13. How does it make any sense to tell a murderer that it is wrong to kill people; therefore, I’m going to kill you to prove it. The death penalty is barbaric.

  14. The United States has disproportionately high murder rates. Sometimes people blame guns, but the fact is that we kill each other using other tools — knives, baseball bats, etc. — at disproportionaely high rates also. I think the mindset that sees capital punishment as “justice” is exactly the same mindset that fuels our homicide rates. Too many people see killing as a proper way of dealing with “problems.”

  15. As a juror on this second trial there is no doubt in my mind that the evidence supported Texas’ affirmative defence of not guilty by reason of insanity, and Texas’ law is one of the hardest to prove in the country. We had a very intelligent jury and we returned the correct verdict.

    Mrs. Yates was suffering from psycosis, and this was not disputed on either side. Even Dr. Dietz, who testified for the state that Mrs. Yates was suffering from an obsession when she drowned her kids, admitted that she showed symptoms of psycosis. He was impeached several times by Mr Parnum however on his obsession theory during cross.

    Post partum psycosis was one of the diagnosese but schitzophrinea (spelling) was another. Either way, the evidence supports that Mrs Yates did not believe what she was doing was wrong.

    These children will never be forgotten. I plan to visit the grave site this weekend. A foundation has already begun in their name to further awareness on mental illness, in an effort to ensure this never happens again.

    The judge ensured us that Mrs Yates faces many years in a maximum security mental hospital and very likely will never live anywhere else. She told us that even if she is allowed visit’s outside the hospital she will be monitored.

    Any flippant remarks about this case without knowing the testimony just shows your ignorance.

  16. Just from the press reports it was obvious Yates had a major psychotic break consistent with the comments above. Why people feel this need to punish such outrageously insane behavior says more about them than the accused. Putting such a disturbed person through the trial process is cruel but unfortunately the usual initial punishment. It would be a lot cheaper to have her administratively commited with periodic fair reviews to see if a time would come to even try the case to achieve some resolution. What I find particularly disturbing is why would a prosecutor with at least 4 years of college and 3 years of law school even want to try and find her guilty of murder as a sane person? Don’t they have any sense of doing the right thing rather than over-exercising their state given moral license to flaggelate the disturbed for political points? While she sounds stark raving, the prosecution sounds morally tone-deaf. We are supposed to be a modern country yet we encourage such prosecutorial malpractice all the time. Its an expensive mistake and a waste of resources.

Comments are closed.