False Testimony Means New Trial For Andrea Yates - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/6/05-Houston

False Testimony Means New Trial For Andrea Yates

A Texas appeals court in Houston on Thursday ordered a new trial for Andrea Yates, the woman who confessed to drowning her five children in a bathtub, citing the false testimony of a prosecution witness.

During her March 2002 sentencing, a jury rejected Yates' insanity defense and she was convicted in the deaths of three of her five children. She was sentenced to life in prison.

Her attorneys argued that she suffered from postpartum psychosis, and she had a well-documented history of postpartum depression.

The Texas First Court of Appeals ruled that the conviction should be reversed because an expert witness for the state, Dr. Park Dietz, presented false testimony when he said Yates may have been influenced by an episode of the "Law & Order" television program. No such episode had ever aired.

Yates apparently was a fan of the show and watched regularly.

The doctor, who worked as consultant for the NBC program, testified during Yates' trial that there was an episode dealing with a woman suffering from postpartum depression who drowned her children in the bathtub and was ruled to be insane.

He suggested that Yates may have been inspired to kill her children because of the show.

In its appeals, the defense said it contacted the producers of the show, who said such an episode was never shown.

The appeals court ruling reversed "the trial court's judgment" and remanded the case for further proceedings, the ruling said. Yates' lawyers could ask that their client receive bail pending a new trial.

The prosecution may ask a higher court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, to overturn the decision from the Texas 1st Court of Appeals.

On June 20, 2001, Yates confessed to police that she drowned her children in a bathtub because she had been a bad mother who hopelessly damaged them.

Eventually she was convicted for the drownings of her 6-month-old daughter Mary, and her sons Noah, 7, and John, 5. The charges did not include the deaths of her two other sons, Paul, 3, and Luke, 2.

The difference between a verdict of guilty and one of not guilty by reason of insanity in the Yates trial hinged on one key issue: whether Yates knew what she was doing when she drowned the children was wrong.

Both the defense and prosecution agreed Yates is mentally ill, but prosecutors convinced the jury that she was aware that what she was doing was wrong.

Under Texas law, defendants can be declared not guilty by reason of insanity only if it is determined they did not know right from wrong at the time of the crime.

The case stirred new debate over the legal standard for mental illness and whether postpartum depression is properly recognized. Women's groups had harshly criticized prosecutors for pushing for the death penalty.

During her trial, the defense called an expert on postpartum depression in an attempt to show that Yates posed no danger to society.

Yates' husband Russell Yates accused the court system of victimizing his wife after the medical community had mistreated her by not recognizing how sick she was and not giving her proper treatment.

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