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July 26, 2006


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, based on all the evidence.

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. That may be hard for the simple mind to understand but the evidence supports it.

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 of what psycosis is and does to the mind.

The fact is that Yates is severely psychotic and was for many years before she killed her children. She had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. She'd been kept semi-functional by large doses of the anti-psychotic drug Haldol, but two weeks before she killed her children her psychiatrist took her off the Haldol, cold turkey. Two days before she killed her children her husband took her back to the doctor and begged him to put her back on the meds; he refused.

(One account said that for the several days before she killed her children she'd been mostly catatonic. For that reason aone she should not have been left alone with five small children, even for a few minutes.)

After the killing a number of prominent psychiatrists examined her and said she was as sick as anyone can get. Massively psychotic, probably schizophrenic. I've read that since her first trial at times she has gotten worse; most of the time she doesn't understand her children are dead, and when her thinking does clear up enough for her to realize what she did, she sinks back into psychosis. And this is with massive amounts of antipsychotic meds. So if it makes you feel better, she's going to be tormented for the rest of her life whether she's in jail or out of it. Her life is effectively over.

Under Texas law she cannot be released without a court's permission, even if the docs decide she is cured, but people as sick as Yates is don't get cured. The best they can hope for is that meds will keep her functional. It's extremely unlikely she will ever be released, even years from now.

Instead of badmouthing Yates, if you want to do something helpful you could see to it that psychiatric illness is treated with the same respect as other illnesses, by insurance companies and everyone else, so that people as sick as Yates aren't left unmedicated and unhospitalized.

Bobby and Maha, I recommend that both of you read the psychiatry classic "The Myth of Mental Illness" by Thomas Szasz. Please read the book -- don't just read about it. It will be an eye opener.

Also read Szasz's critics -- many of whom have a vested interest in keeping the notion of "mental illness" alive and well -- and his responses to his critics. Keep in mind that many a scientist who advances an important new idea is initially in the minority, before his ideas are eventually accepted. The doctor who theorized that stomach ulcers were not caused by stress (as psychiatrists claimed for years) but by a bacterium was initially ridiculed by his fellow doctors, but a decade or so later he was ultimately proven correct. Now ulcers caused by the H. pylori bacterium are routinely treated by antibiotics.

Time does not permit a full discussion of the issue now, but here are some tidbits to think about:

1. Mental illness is not objectively verifiable "illness" with reference to a brain pathology. If it were, the appropriate scientific expert would a neurologist -- a medical doctor. Why is this important? Because diagnosis of most types of "mental illness" is inherently subjective. Since it is not based on scientifically verifiable, objective standards, labeling and diagnosing mental illness is not entirely scientific, if it is scientific at all. Some of what we call mental illness is simply immoral behavior. Some of what we call mental illness is an attempt to send a message using the body rather than using words.

2. Thomas Szasz explains that some people, including those with poor communication skills or passive agressive behavior, use bizarre and heinous behaviors as a way of communicating messages that they are unable or unwilling to state verbally, and as a way of getting results they want. Thomas Szasz opened his discussion with examples of patients with "mental illnesses" known to be hysterical in origin (e.g., man who feels guilty about some act involving his left arm suddenly can't move the arm, leaving the psychiatrist to figure out why), but the range of bizarre and heinous behaviors that people engage in as a substitute for direct verbal communication is as varied as the human race.

If a man sets his wife's car on fire, we immediately suspect a conventional motive like a jealous rage. He is arrested and goes to jail.

If instead he does something even more heinous like putting a kitten in a microwave, there is a chance that somebody, particularly his defense lawyer, will try to claim that the man was mentally ill.

If the man chooses something really heinous and bizarre to do, like killing his wife and feeding the body parts to the kitten while playing operas on the stereo, he has a decent chance of prevailing on the mental illness defense.

In all three cases, the man may have been motivated by nothing more than a jealous rage and a desire to express hatred toward and to punish his wife and her presumed lover. Yet as the behavior becomes more heinous and bizarre, there is a temptation four outsiders to suspect that the man could not possibly have meant to do something so bizarre and evil, and to give him a "pass" in the form of a successful insanity defense.

Ironically, the one who commmitted the greatest evil has the best shot at getting a "get out of jail free" card.

Now, how do we know that this is not what happened in Yates' case?

We don't know for sure. Again, the diagnosis of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses is inherently subjective. Prior diagnoses don't mean much except that Yates showed some bizarre or heinous behavior before. So have millions of other criminals who have walked the earth.

3. In this case, the message Andrea Yates sent loud and clear through her behavior was that she was fed up with nearly 24/7 responsibility for five children including a young baby. That responsibility included home schooling, which left her with no respite time during the day while some of the children would normally be in a regular school. She was outraged at her husband and children for her predicament. She saw a way out and a way to punish her husband, and she took it.

4. Yates clearly was not completely delusional when she commited the murders. She chose a time for her quintuple murder spree when nobody would be around but her victims; she choose victims who were helpless to fight back; she ignored the struggles, vomiting, etc. of her children -- at least three minutes per child, with additional time "required" to catch the child who tried to run away (the poor young man, God rest his soul) and to move the bodies out of the way; by her own testimony she intended to kill the children; she telephoned her husband and the police afterwards. She knew that it was her children that she drowned. She didn't think she was drowning house plants. She knew that it was against the law. She knew that her children didn't want to die -- she had to chase down the oldest as he pleaded for his life. What DIDN'T Yates know due to her alleged "mental illness"? Nothing. With full knowledge of what she was doing, she did it.

5. If Yates had "only" held one of her children under water for 30 seconds (an eternity in itself) and had been interrupted, nobody would buy any mental illness defense. We'd recognize it as child abuse, we'd call Yates an abusive mom; and we'd take her children away. It's only because of the extreme outcome here -- that she succeeded in abusing all five children to the point of their deaths before anybody could stop her - that people assume she must not have meant it.

6. There is much more that could be said here, but it's late. I hope I've given you food for thought.

7. Even if mental illness has some validity as a concept, where is the scientific evidence that being evil and being mentally ill at that same moment are mutually exclusive categories? A person can be both crazy and evil. I can think of a few examples and I'm sure you can too. I realize that the jury in this case was forced to apply a legal standard over which it had no control, but this is something that society needs to better address. Additionally, simply from the standpoint of justice, there needs to be some penalty paid for deliberately drowning a child, no matter what the excuse.

If Yates had drowned her elderly mother in the bathtub, I suspect that the mental illness defense would not have had the same result. It's the fact that children were drowned --and that mothers USUALLY love their children -- and that mothers have total control over their children whether they love them or not -- that somehow has allowed people to view this as a "lesser" crime in some way. Or try this example on for size: Imagine that Yates methodically drowned five weak adults in a nursing home. Would anyone give a "mental illness" defense the time of day? I suspect not.

8. It's nice to believe that Yates will be confined for a long, long time, but there's no guarantee of it. It depends on how much common sense is shown by the psychiatrists who assess her from this point forward. She could theoretically be released -- and indeed, will insist on the civil right ot be released -- as soon as she is not a threat to herself or others. But who can predict whether Yates is a threat to others? Psychiatrists are notoriously bad at making that prediction accurately -- which should raise further suspicions in your mind about whether psychiatry is mostly science or mostly junk science.

Bobby, if you were indeed one of the jurors, you did the best with what you knew and what you were told at the time.

By the way, although it was too late to save Yates' children from the moment the rest of the world knew of what she had done to them, there are other very bad mothers out there who will take note of this verdict. And believe me, they can look crazy if they want to. Does anyone reading this doubt that they could obtain a diagnosis of mental illness for themselves with very little effort? If you doubt that there are people evil enough to take this verdict to heart and use it -- as revenge toward a spouse who is divorcing them and about to win child custody, for example -- well, I fervently hope you are right, but I strongly fear that you are wrong.

Enough for now. Read Thomas Szasz's book and then if you still are convinced that it's perfectly alright that Yates was not convicted of any crime and is free to be released -- and to have children again -- as soon as a psychatrist says so -- then give it another five years and think about it again.


First, I commend Dr. Szasz for his research in mental health. Much more is needed.

Yes, I was indead one of the jurors and we all are happy with the verdict. It was 8-4 the first vote in favor of the affirmative defence, and 11-1 by noon the next day, after two wanted to review some of the testimony. All 3 alternates said they would have been with the 8 in the first vote.

Mrs Yates attempted suidied twice. Once in 94 and again in 99 because of seperate command hallucinations from satan to harm one of her kids. Is this the behaviour you consider heinous?

She had a 130 IQ in high school, but that has diminished to below 100 as of today. I asked Wendell Odem after the trial how she received the verdict and he said, "With Andrea it's hard to tell. She'll be talking to you and appear fine, then start looking around and ask where her dog is." She is still very ill.

I'm sorry, but there was no loud and clear message, as you state, that she was fed up with mothering five children. Home schooling had only began for the oldest child and was stopped when Adrea's father died. Dora Yates' testimony of Andrea's actions around the house was chilling, and one of the only windows we had into her psycosis, outside of the doctors.

Doctors who have spent their entire professional career treating the mentally ill testified that psycosis causes an altered sence of reality. Why is that inconcievable? I see homeless people on my way to work talking to someone beside them who is obviously not there. One appears to be touching an imaginary person on the shoulder and holding a conversation with him. Am I witnessing a myth?

Maybe cases such as this should be handled in the medical community, as is done in other countries, and only sent to trial if needed.

It's impossible to go over all the testimony in this forum, but I'm convinced we did the right thing.

Five innocent children were methodically drowned by their own mother, and the woman who drowned them will never be punished for her crime.

Can you imagine the horror of being chased, held under water, and drowned by your own mother? To whom did those children desperately cry out for help?

What kind of animal watches her children struggle, vomit and die before her own eyes?

Yates was sane enough to function normally. That is why she was with the children at all. There were warning signs, but others thought she was a normal mother. And if Yates attempted suicide in the past because she thought she might harm her children, that shows that even in her own mind she had a choice between harming the children and harming herself. She chose only to "attempt" her own suicide but to kill her children.

There's no conclusive scientific proof that Yates didn't know what she was doing. There is no conclusive proof because "mental illness" is not "diagnosed" on the basis of objective medical evidence.

Yates had at least 30 minutes to think about the fact that she was doing something horribly wrong, assuming that each of the children desperately struggled for life for a least three minutes and it took time to take one out of the tub so that the next one could be captured and drowned. There is no way that this woman did not realize at least once during those 30 plus horrible minutes that she was in the process of committing a heinous wrong.

Yates had ample motive to ease her own burden and to strike at her husband by killing the children. Taking care of one newborn is exhausting. Taking care of five is very hard. Again, I strongly recommend reading Thomas Szasz's The Myth of Mental Illness cover to cover. Bizarre behavior is often a form of nonverbal communication.

Andrea Yates is now, in the eyes of the law, free to be released at any time and to have children again. And she can drown them again if she wishes.

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