ANDREA YATES, THE DEATH PENALTY, AND FREEDOM?

Categories: Essays
Written By: Billy Sinclair

           Noah was 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, 6 months, when, on June 20, 2001, their mother took each child, who was named  after people of the Bible and New Testament, into the bathroom, and in spite of all their crying, pleas, and screams, drowned them before calling her husband and 911.

            That’s what Andrea Yates did. No doubt about that. No dispute about guilt. As a society, we would think it unimaginable if a stranger broke into a mother’s home and killed her five children in the same manner. That person would get the death penalty—and, in fact, some states which have abolished the death penalty would reenact it just for this one individual, if they could.

            In March, 2002, a Harris County, Texas, jury rejected an insanity plea by Yates and convicted her of capital murder recommending a life sentence with parole eligibility after 40 years. In January 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, finding that false forensic testimony had been used to convict Yates, reversed her conviction and ordered a new trial. In July 2006, Yates’s defense team convinced a jury that the mother was insane at the time of the crime because she suffered from extreme “postpartum psychosis.” She was committed to the Texas State Hospital for the criminally insane. One year later she was transferred to a minimum security mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas.

            In recent weeks, Yates’ attorney, George Parnham, petitioned a Harris County criminal court judge to grant the mental patient “freedom” to attend weekly church services in the Kerrville community. Parnham informed the court that Yates is psychologically stable, no longer poses a threat to the community or herself, and weekly church services would enhance her prospects of complete rehabilitation.

            The limited freedom request has stirred considerable controversy and debate about crime and punishment. I will add my two cents to the public debate. My wife is the mother of three fine, grown children. I cannot imagine under any circumstance that she would have ever harmed a hair on the head of any of those children, even though she suffered through difficult pregnancies, losing twins to a miscarriage.

            Yates reportedly told investigators that she drowned her children because they were sinners and she didn’t want them to “go to hell.” It is indisputable that prior to the murders Yates was psychotically depressed, that she had quit taking her anti-depressant medication, and that she was feverishly reading the Bible. Some reports have said that Yates told the police God told her to drown the children.

            Let’s be clear: the Bible is replete with atrocities ordered by God. He enacted the “Ban” which commanded the Israelites in taking cities and villages of the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites to put to death every man, woman and child with the knife. So given God’s recorded history, it is quite possible that He spoke to Yates and told the deranged mother to drown her five defenseless children.

            My point is this: I don’t care if God descended from Heaven and personally instructed Yates to drown her five children, she was morally and legally bound to tell God, “You take that atrocious stuff on back to Heaven. I am not about to kill, to drown, my children for You or anyone else in Your Kingdom. If killing my five children earns me a seat in Heaven, Hell is a better place to be.”

            And as for the post-partum psychosis issue, Yates may have been out of her mind when she drown the first child, maybe even the second, but at some point in that horrific killing process, with her children begging, pleading and fighting for life, she knew what she was doing and did it anyway. The thought of those crying children brings tears to my soul, and the sorrow that produces those tears will never be erased by some post-partum excuse.

            Should Andrea Yates be allowed to attend church services? I have reservations about allowing someone to communicate in the free community with the very God who told her to kill her children. God is not about to say, “Oops, my bad – go and sin no more.” I don’t know if God talked to Yates or not on June 20, 2001, but what I do know she believes He did, and I don’t trust her ability to interpret God’s instructions. God could instruct her to “Go at will” and she might interpret that instruction as “Go and kill.”

7 Responses to “ANDREA YATES, THE DEATH PENALTY, AND FREEDOM?”

  1. Thomas Rykala Says:

    M’Naughten’s Test as adopted by the The Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984 would very precisely judge Yates as sane. That the standards were twisted in her favor, only supports my previous entry under another post; that women get the longer end of the stick in our society because we simply do not want to execute them however horrible murderers they may be.

    I have read an excellent book once titled “Toxic Faith.” All over the world people are committing horrible acts in the name of religion and yet have not met the legal standard of insanity based on multiple factors related to premeditation and volition. Sept 11th is a perfect example.

    Had Yates murdered her children as an act of passion (instant action) I would agree that she was legally sane at the time but everything (her statements and actions) dictate to the contrary.

    To allow Yates the “freedom” now to attend church services would feed the very nature of her obsession and allow her to become re-doctrinated into the very toxicity that propelled her into murdering her own children in the first place.

  2. stinkweed Says:

    I think you must have no idea what postpartum depression actually is. This is something that requires at least weeks of therapy/meds to get under control. There isn’t some sort of “snap out of it!” because a baby cries.

    This was a woman who was failed by a husband who had to have seen that she was sinking into mental illness. A man that left this woman, knowing she was sinking further and further into mental illness alone with their children instead of making sure she got the help that she needed.

    I’m sure her own guilt, now that she’s stabilized is a much worse punishment than anything any other human being can put upon her.

    Women who do things like this because of postpartum depression are very unlikely to commit further crimes.

    I think the bigger question would be why her husband wasn’t charged for neglect for leaving his children with a mentally unbalanced person.

  3. Thomas Rykala Says:

    You may have a point with the husband, however if I were to follow your logic – why not discuss other family members, heh? I am certain there were others in her life who “should have” noticed? But anyway, Andrea became a follower of one Michael Woroniecki, a self-proclaimed prophet thus my reference to the Toxic Failth” book in the previous entry. That contributed greatly to her state of mind. Note that psychosis is always rooted in part in some reality and that becomes intertwined with an imagined contributor. If anything, Michael Woroniecki and his wife Rachel assisted Andrea in creating these religious delusions – read this:
    “From the letters I have that Rachel Woroniecki wrote to Andrea,” says Suzy Spencer on Mugshots, “it was, ‘You are evil. You are wicked. You are a daughter of Eve, who is a wicked witch. The window of opportunity for us to minister to you is closing. You have to repent now. ” You can read the erst of this story on
    http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/women/andrea_yates/5.html

  4. Susan Says:

    This is the only case I’ve ever seen where I totally believe she was clinically insane and killed her children – not out of hate, anger or spite – but because she felt she was a horrible mother. Her WORTHLESS husband is the real killer of those kids, IMHO. It wasn’t church that made her ill (for it was the devil speaking to her, no?) – It was being part of a fundamentalist sect of Christianity where a woman is dominated by a man and made to bear his fruit every 9 months until her uterus falls out **or** she kills her children – whichever comes first. She had a longstanding WELL DOCUMENTED metal illness that was getting progressively worse. Her physican, her husband, her “church”, they all failed her.

    Let her out to attend church.. as long as it’s not Woroniecki’s.

  5. Shirley Says:

    If she was truly remorseful for what she did (even if she did do it in a state of psychosis), she would not try to get out of that mental hospital for even two hours. It’s a slap in society’s face.

    If she gets out of that hospital and harms another person, I hope the victim’s family member sue the hospital and the court system big time. If she gets out of the hospital and commits suicide, I hope her family sues the living daylights out of everyone who was responsible for her release.

    This woman doesn’t believe Rusty had grounds for divorce. He didn’t divorce her for adultery. He divorced her for killing the kids. Oh good, send her to a Catholic church or whatever church to reinforce her belief that Russell belongs to her.

    She didn’t want to share him with the kids. It is unlikely she will want to share him with his new wife and baby. If, and this is a big if, she really was legally insane (which I doubt and some FBI psychiatrists agree), she is someone who is capable of long term plotting who only needs a small window of opportunity to carry out her diabolical plans.

    She only needed a window of one hour to murder five children.

  6. mimi Says:

    Five children were murdered by their ‘loving ,God fearing and hardworking ‘ mom within an hour..and yet Andrea Yates still manages to be a victim. She didn’t forget to eat,sleep or dress that day……..she didn’t forget to plan the murders….she didn’t forget to drown those little kids in water…she didn’t forget to chase her seven year old to his death…..and she didn’t forget to claim insanity to escape capital punishment. She is alive,hale and the govt is spending our hard earned tax money for her well being. All I ask is “ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?” She is a killer,a murderer and a monster.She should be kept alive and reminded of her deeds everyday. Letting her go out is out of question. I hopes it never gets granted.

  7. Belinda Says:

    It is so sad that ignorant unempathetic individuals pass judgement on others through no fault of their own are living the the hell that mental illness imposes on them. Andrea Yates was a loving mother just as Kim Patterson was when she killed her daughter. Postpartum depression major depression bipolar or schizophrenia pushes people outside the realms of what normal people all reality. Struggling with punishing thoughts, demoralizing voices , sane thinking is impossible. Isn’t it amazing when someone is diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis we all rally around them and offer support and empathy, yet when a psychotically depressed person is pushed to the unimaginable act of killing her children we throw rocks at her. Her husband failed her her doctors failed her. Imagine a doctor sending Andrea yates home and telling her to think positive thoughts……what a joke where did he study psychiatry…. A psychotically depressed person cannot think positive thoughts . Wake up people she has suffered enough!!!

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