Yates' Lawyer Preparing for Possible New Trial Next Year

Convicted killer Andrea Yates could get a new trial as soon as next year after the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals yesterday refused to reconsider a lower court's ruling that overturned her murder conviction.

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Yates has spent the past few years at a psychiatric prison in East Texas, but could soon be back in a Houston courtroom across the street from where a Harris County jury convicted her of drowning her children in a bathtub. The Clear Lake mother claimed she was insane, an argument jurors didn't buy when they sentenced her to life in prison. But during the appeals process, her attorneys successfully argued that a prosecution witness, psychiatrist Park Dietz, testified that Yates may have gotten the idea for the murders from an episode of the television drama Law and Order. It was later determined no such episode existed. Her attorney George Parnham says he's preparing to go to trial again. "Plea bargain isn't an option, and I think that as long is there's nothing on the table that would be acceptable to address the mental health issues that are so apparent with Andrea in Andrea's case. Given that, the only other option is to get ready to go to trial," he says.

Parnham says psychotic episodes in prison subsequent to her trial will bolster Yates' insanity defense in a second trial, but that he doesn't expect a wholesale change in defense strategy. Harris County Prosecutor Joe Owmby won the first round in 2002 and will try the second Yates case if it goes forward. "I enjoy trials, but they are highly stressful, they're stressful for me, they're stressful for my family, co-council's family, the witnesses involved, so it's not something I undertake lightly. We have the support of the district attorney here to go forward, and that's what we're going to do," he says.

That district attorney, Chuck Rosenthal, says the involvement of pychiatrist Dietz in the first trial has been overplayed and really had nothing to do with the outcome. "He didn't give it on anything having to do with Andrea Yates. He gave the testimony on cross examination to the defense attorney and simply made a mistake as to that information. It was on a collateral matter and was not and had nothing to do with the issue whether Mrs. Yates was sane or insane when she murdered her children," Rosenthal says.

Assistant district attorney Alan Curry handled the appeal for Harris County and says not much will change in a second trial. "I believe Andrea Yates received a fair trial the first time around and the evidence would essentially be the same which was presented the first time and the jury would be presented with a lot of evidence that Andrea Yates knew what she was doing and that it was wrong," he says.

If the case does go to trial again, the same judge in the original trial, State District Judge Belinda Hill, will preside.

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