Should Andrea Yates Be Retried? - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Should Andrea Yates Be Retried?

Andrea Yates will be back in court today. Once again she will be charged with capital murder, and once again she will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Yates, 41, admitted to drowning her five young children, Noah, John, Paul, Luke and Mary in June 2001, just after her husband had left for work. She was convicted of capital murder in three of the deaths — she was not charged in two of them — four years ago and sentenced to life in prison. Her conviction was overturned last January by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because of false testimony by the state's lead witness, psychiatrist Park Dietz.

Dietz testified that Yates had watched an episode of the TV show "Law and Order" in which a woman had drowned her children. Dietz was a consultant to the show. But soon after his testimony, producers for the show contacted defense attorney George Parnham and told him no such episode had ever been produced.

"I made an honest mistake about the television show during cross-examination," Dietz later admitted to ABC News' "Good Morning America." "And a week later I learned that I might be mistaken."

Five experts testified at trial that Yates should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. But Dietz, the prosecution's star witness, discounted her claims of hearing voices and said she knew right from wrong when she drowned her children one by one in a bathtub.

Yates' mother hopes the decision to throw out her daughter's conviction means that she will someday get out of prison. Karin Kennedy visits her daughter as often as possible, and proudly displays the pictures her daughter has drawn for her. She says not a day goes by that Yates doesn't think about her children, and that, she says, is punishment enough.

Yates' defense team is negotiating with the Harris County District Attorney's Office for a plea bargain; however, the chasm between the two sides is vast. Parnham won't settle for anything that sends his client back to prison.

"It would be catastrophic for her," he said. "This is a woman who was deeply psychotic when she drowned her children, suffering from postpartum depression and she deserves treatment, not punishment."

Prosecutor Joe Owmby sees the case differently. "We are not in the business of confining people because they are mentally ill. We are in the business of punishing people."

Even though the couple are divorced, Yates' husband, Rusty, visits her once a month and wants her to be spared the agony of another trial.

"To take her back and spend another million taxpayer dollars on a trial would be bad for everybody," he said.

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