Texas v. Andrea Yates
A 37 year-old women stunned the nation when she drowned all five of her children on June 20, 2001. Her name is Andrea Yates and she went on trial for their murders in the case known as Texas v. Andrea Yates. Her trail lasted for four weeks and much controversy surrounded it.
Andrea admitted to police that she drowned her five children: Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and Mary 6 months. This whole situation turned into a controversy because prosecutors in the case tried to convince the jury that Yates was sane during the murders while her defense insisted that she was suffering from postpartum depression.
Andrea Yates admitted that she decided to kill her children the day before she carried the murders out. She was certain that she was possessed by the devil and that “the sign of Satan, 666, was marked on her scalp” (Gospelcom.net. The Evil Inside).
She wanted her head shaved so that prison doctors could see this mark. Andrea believed that her children where not developing correctly, not doing well in their studies (the children were home schooled by her) and did not have good manners. “She came to believe that she had failed so badly to measure up to her own extreme ideals of motherhood (she thought the kid’s should say their ABC’s by age 2)” (Roche, Timothy, 17).
She also stated that “the death of her children was her punishment, not theirs. She said their deaths were a mother’s final act of mercy, and told doctors that only her execution would rescue her from the evil inside” (Gospelcom.net).
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On the day of June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates filled a bathtub up with water. She took 2 year-old Luke into the bathroom and held his head under water until he stopped struggling. Next was Paul, 3, followed by John, 5. Mary, the six-month-old baby was laying on the floor of the bathroom during the first three drownings. When 7 year-old Noah came into the bathroom and seen Mary face down in the water, he asked what was wrong with his baby sister. When he realized what was happening, he took off running. Andrea then had to chase Noah through the house, dragged him back to the bathroom, and drowned him. Andrea stated that Noah fought her and came up for air twice before drowning. After drowning the first four children, Andrea carried their bodies to a bedroom, put them on a bed and covered them with a sheet. Noah remained face down in the water. She first called her husband and told him to come home. She then called the police but gave no specific as to why they needed to come to her house. When she opened the door, she was wet and stated that she killed her children. She then led the police officer to the bedroom where the bodies of four of the children were. She stated that she should go to Hell for what she had done. She also stated that she waited until her husband went to work before drowning their kids because she knew he would try to stop her. Andrea Yates was then arrested.
From the time Andrea was arrested, her husband, Russell Yates, has remained on her side and blaming her illness instead of her for the death of the children. He told police “she had been on medication to treat postpartum depression for the past 2 years, since the birth of their fourth child” (COURT TV ONLINE. Depressed Mother Charges With Drowning Her Children).
“Andrea was treated on and off for depression and two suicide attempts after the birth of her fourth child. After the birth of her fifth child, as well as the death of her father, her condition seemed to worsen, her husband said” (FreeRepublic.com: Husband of Accused Child Killer Talks).
She was last admitted into the Devereux Texas Treatment Network last May because she filled the same bathtub up with water and would not tell anyone why. She would later say that she had originally planned to drown her children then. However, she knew her husband would try to stop her.
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Postpartum depression is suffered by new mothers that have just given birth. Researchers found that it affects ten to twenty percent of new mothers. The condition worsens if the patient suffers a traumatic incident (in Andrea’s case – the death of her father).
She had been placed on the powerful antipsychotic drug, Haldol. This medication is for a patient with an extremely serious psychosis. One medical professional, Cindy Hasz, said “to have expected Andrea Yates to take care of five children when she had a known history of PPD, had already attempted suicide twice and on Haldol is just plain unthinkable”(Monitor: The Accomplices Of Andrea Yates).
In September, jurors determined Andrea was competent to stand trial, which means she understands the charges and can participate in her defense. In January, a jury of eight women and four men where chosen. Seven jurors have children. Two of the women have psychology degrees. “Prosecutors seeking the death penalty for Yates agreed she suffered from a mental illness but contended she was well aware her actions were wrong when she held each of her children under water”(COURT TV: Mother Faces Jury For Drowning Five Kids).
The Texas State Statues state the felonies punishable by death. “Title 5. Offenses Against The PersonChapter 19. Criminal Homicide19.03. Capital Murder.(a) A person commits an offense if he commits murder as defined under Section 19.02(b)(1) and:(7) The person murders more than one person:(A) during the same criminal transaction; or(B) during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct.(8) The person murders an individual under six years of age.” (Court TV Online, The Law: Texas State Statues).
“One of the courts lists the killings of Noah and John as two victims killed during the commission of the same crime, to qualify for capital punishment. The second count lists the death of Mary as a child under the age of 6.” (COURT TV ONLINE, Texas Mom Accused Of Drowning Her Five Children Found Sane To Stand Trial).
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Charges may ultimately be filed in the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2.
Russell Yates and his mother, Dora Yates, testified for the defense stating that Andrea was mentally ill during the murders. Both stated that Andrea was a loving mother who became ill. “The defense called an expert on postpartum depression in an effort to show that Yates poses no threat to society. “Her symptoms were triggered by the birth of her children. If she has no more children and stays on her medication, her symptoms will remain under control,” states Dr. Lucy Purycar, a forensic psychiatrist” (Cnn.com. Yates Sentenced To Life In Prison).
Prosecutors displayed the clothing the children wore when they died to the jury. They did this to show how much smaller they were to their mother. “Defense attorney George Parnham contended there was “no value to displaying the children’s clothing to the jury” and that the sole intent of the prosecution was to “inflame and prejudice the jury” (COURT TV: Third Day Of Testimony To Begin In Trial Of Texas Mom).
Judge Belinda Hill, a former prosecutor, sided with the prosecution and the clothing was entered into evidence. Prosecutors also showed the jury 29 photos of the children’s dead bodies. One photo was of Noah floating face down in the bathtub. More photos were of bruises on their bodies. Lastly, another photo showed Mary being cradled in Luke’s arm. A damaging statement to the defense from the prosecution stated that all the children, with the exception of Noah, could have been revived if medical attention had been given immediately.
The jury also watched a videotape confession conducted by Sergeant Eric Mehl. Andrea stated that her intent was to “suffocate the life out of her children” (COURT TV: Confession Heard In Drowning Trial).
She said Noah suffered the most. “Dr. Patricia J. Moore, a medical examiner who performed autopsies on John and Mary, testified the children’s heads had small bruises, likely from someone holding them under water. Moore said John had a long brown hair, likely one of his mother’s, clutched in his fist” (COURT TV: Confession Heard In Drowning Trial).
Andrea Yates was convicted on two counts of capital murder for the drowning of 6 month-old Mary and sons John, 5, and Noah, 7. The night before her sentencing, “Yates penned a letter apologizing to her family and culogizing her five children. “I regret that my illness has brought me to a place where I was capable of killing my own children,” she wrote” (Clemetson, L, Gesalman, A.B., p.30).
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On March 18, 2002 “while Russell Yates was in New York appearing on the Today Show, blaming the medical establishment…and Andrea’s family was presumably home watching themselves on Good Morning America blaming Russell…Andrea Yates stood virtually alone in a Houston courtroom while she was formally sentenced to life in prison. Yates was sentenced to life in prison in part because the prosecution made it clear that they would have no objection to such a decision” (About. Andrea Yates: Trial Update).
Andrea was sentenced to life in prison but will be eligible for parole after serving forty years. “She receives credit for the nearly nine months she has been in Jail since June 20. Typically, it takes the Sheriff’s Department about two weeks to transfer inmates to a state prison. When she leaves, she will go for “classification” to one of five women’s units at Gatesville, near Waco. The classification process, which includes a medical and psychiatric evaluation, can take up to 30 days. When classification is complete, she will either remain at Gatesville or go to another women’s facility, depending partly on her mental condition,” (HoustonChronicle.com. Yates Faces Sentencing Alone).
I believe that Andrea Yates was sane while she was drowning her five children in a bathtub. Unless Andrea suddenly had a nervous breakdown and drowned her children in a moment of insanity, then I would feel differently. However, she had stated that she had thought up the idea of murdering her children the day before she carried the act out. She had the intent. Andrea had filled up a bathtub full of water, put one child after another into that bathtub, and held their heads under water while they struggled. Mary, the six-month-old baby was on the bathroom floor crying the entire time. Andrea had to chase Noah around the house and drag him into the bathroom. I believe that these events leading up to the murders, including the murders themselves proves that Andrea Yates was sane when she decided to murder her children.
I have mixed emotions regarding the death penalty. I feel that since Andrea murdered her five children, she should not be able to keep her life. However, I also feel that a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole is the best kind of punishment. Andrea will sit in prison everyday of her life thinking about what she did to her children. A person’s thoughts can literally drive them insane. I think this is the best type of punishment for Andrea Yates.
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I also believe that the husband of Andrea Yates, Russell Yates should hold some of the responsibility for the murders. He knew she had gone through postpartum depression following the birth of their fourth child that also involved two attempted suicides. However he believed that she would be mentally healthy to care for their next and last child when they received the news that Andrea was pregnant for the fifth time. I believe that Russell showed negligence by acknowledging the fact that Andrea was mentally ill and allowing her to be alone with the children at the time of the children’s deaths.
Most people believe that life in prison is exactly what Andrea Yates deserves. Others believe she should have received the death penalty. However one thing is for sure: she is going to pay the price for what she did to her children.