On June 20, 2001 Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub. She confessed to the crimes, but pleaded not guilty because she was insane when the murders took place. Although both prosecution and defense witnesses asserted that Andrea was psychotic, the law in Texas requires the defense to prove that the defendant was not only insane, but could not discern right from wrong when the crime took place (Resnick, 2007). The trial of Andrea Yates raises several questions about her husband’s responsibility, impact of social isolation and available community support for the family. These questions form the basis of this essay.
Guilty by Reason of Insanity
Andrea Yates was first tried in the high court in Texas. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Both the prosecution and defense testimonies agreed she was psychotic when she killed her children. However, the prosecution identified spousal revenge as a possible motive, and asserted she knew right from wrong because she had locked up the household dog to prevent it from interfering as she drowned her five children in a bath tub (Michalopoulos, 2002). She was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Based on the assessment form the psychiatrists that Andrea Yates was psychotic at the times of the killings, the jury should have agreed with the defense that she was not guilty by reason of insanity. The high court decision was later reversed by the Texas Court of Appeals.
Russell Yates’ Responsibility
Andrea suffered from depression after their fourth child, and her psychiatrist recommended that she gets no more children to prevent triggering her psychotic depression. The family religious believes encouraged them to have many children. Andrea’s husband Russell was partly at fault for the tragedy since they got pregnant again which could trigger her psychotic depression. He should have avoided pregnancy and concentrated on getting medical help for his wife.
Andrea Yates had been psychotic long before she killed her children. The social isolation her family suffered can produce negative self-esteem. This feeling of inadequacy pushed Andrea in religion fanatics and contributed to the tragedy as while in prison she said Satan had made her children disobedient. Family isolation provoked her psychotic depression and causing her to kill her children.
There are various community support programs that the family would have enlisted to help Andrea. Peer support from other people who have recovered from psychosis would have helped her understand she is not alone. The community can also give self-care support where factors such as nutrition, sleep quality, and stress management can be used to prevent triggering psychotic depression.
Andrea Yates had pleaded not guilty to killing her five children by reason of insanity. Since experts from both the prosecution and defense agree she was psychotic at the time of the murders, the jury should have found her not guilty and instead recommend medical help that would address her psychosis. Various factors such as family isolation, religious beliefs, and pregnancy may have triggered her actions. In this regard, her husband is also at fault for the tragedy for getting her pregnant against the advice of her psychiatrist instead of getting her community and medical support to cure her psychotic depression.
Michalopoulos, C. (2002). Filling in the holes of the insanity defense: The Andrea Yates case
and the need for a new prong. Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L., 10, 383.
Resnick, P. J. (2007). Andrea Yates Case: Insanity on Trial, The. Clev. St. L. Rev., 55, 147.