Friday, 20 February 2015

Murderous Mothers: Andrea Yates

The Yates family during happier times

On June 20th 2001, Andrea Yates drowned all five of her children in the bath tub of the family home. Having suffered for years with serious mental health issues, it had been recommended that Yates was not to be left alone with the children. Unfortunately, there was a spare hour on the morning of June 20th, where she would be completely home alone with the kids. During these 60 minutes, John, Paul, Luke, Mary and Noah Yates were to lose their lives at the hands of their own mother. After committing the murders, Yates calmly rang police before ringing her husband, Rusty, telling him "it's time".

When the case went to trial, Andrea Yates' defence team filed a plea of guilty by way of insanity. In Texas, for such a plea to be accepted successfully it has to be proven that the defendant was unable to determine between right and wrong at the time the crime took place. One point the state prosecutor appeared to focus on was the fact that when police arrived at the Yates residence on the day of the murder, the family dog was locked up in a dog cage. Several people testified this to be highly unusual, as the dog was usually allowed free run of the house. Randy Yates, Andrea's husband, even testified that when he had left the home that morning, the dog had indeed been roaming free. The State Prosecutor alleged that Andrea had locked up the dog to prevent it from interfering with her murderous plans. Therefore, said the prosecutor, Andrea knew exactly what she was doing and this was proven in her action with the dog. Andrea Yates was found guilty of the capital murder of her five children in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison. 

The defence team associated with Andrea Yates immediately began the long and arduous task of appealing her case. Their hard work and commitment paid off when an appeals court granted her a new trial. Amazingly, in 2006, the jury at Yates' second trial found her innocent by way of insanity and she was sentenced to a mental hospital. Today, Andrea Yates resides at a low level security mental hospital in Kerrville. While she has the sympathy of many, the majority of people believe she got off lightly for the most heinous of crimes. Yates is the only patient at the facility not to have a 'day outing' pass. This would enable her to attend things such as picnics and other staff supervised events. However, Andrea Yates' application for the pass caused so much of a public outcry, her doctors deemed that any positive consequences of having the pass would be far outweighed by the negative. Yates applied in 2012 to be given permission to attend church services off hospital grounds, this was denied by the judge. Andrea Yates is currently evaluated every six months. 

So what do you make of the Andrea Yates case? Does the fact she murdered all of her five children highlight serious mental health problems. Or did she use past health issues, as well as possible post-partum depression, as an excuse to get away with murder?  

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