Jurors in the Andrea Yates retrial will continue their deliberations after discussing the case for about two hours yesterday afternoon. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, Yates broke down in court during closing arguments Monday as prosecutors showed the jury grahpic photos of her dead children.
With her head down, Yates cried as prosecutors flashed large pictures of the Clear Lake crime scene and then showed jurors the clothing her children were wearing when they died. Her ex-husband, Russell Yates, covered his eyes and then left the courtroom, sitting in the hallway until closing arguments concluded. Prosecutor Joe Ownby told the panel that Yates knew exactly what she was doing on June 20th of 2001.
“It would have been just impossible to just grab children on an impulse and throw them in the tub. She had to have a systematic way of drowning these children, or one of them is going to run out that door, or one of them is going to make a 911 hang-up call. One of them is going to do something to interrupt the plan that she had to drown those children, because even at 7-years old, Noah Yates knew it was wrong.”
Prosecutors admitted that Yates very likely was mentally ill when she drowned her children, but told the jury that it is possible to be mentally ill and still know that something is illegal.
“According to the evidence that you can see, hear and evaluate for yourself, Andrea Yates, in spite of symptoms of depression triggered by the death of her father, murdered these children knowing it was legally wrong.”
The defense countered that Yates was psychotic and severely mentally ill, both on the day she drowned her children and for a long time before. Defense attorney Wendell Odom compared the illness to a physical defect, like a heart attack.
“It’s not like alcoholism where you bring it on or drug addiction where you’re somewhat at fault. It’s like a heart attack. She has a disease of the mind and it hit her like a heart attack.”
He then told the 6 women and 6 men on the jury that they had a job to do, to take the information they’d been given and make a decision on whether Yates was insane when she killed her 5 children, Noah, John, Luke, Paul and Mary.
“You have the tools that you need. When it’s all said and done and as awkward and as cumbersome and the process seemed to be, you have the tools now to do what you need to do. What you need to do is to evaluate the witnesses, look at the evidence and answer those hard questions, and I don’t envy you.”
The jury is expected to resume deliberations at about 9:00 o’clock today. If the panel finds her guilty, she’ll spend the rest of her life in prison. A not guilty by reason of insanity verdict would mean she would likely spend the rest of her life in a state mental hospital.