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Andrea Yates seeks weekly release from mental hospital

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Andrea Yates seeks weekly release from mental hospital to go to church

By Terri Langford

Ten years after Andrea Yates was first convicted of murdering her five children, the Clear Lake mother might soon be allowed outside the confines of a state psychiatric hospital to go to church, her attorney told the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday.

Defense attorney George Parnham said he expects Yates' doctors at Kerrville State Hospital to file a letter in the next week, asking the state district court in Houston to let Yates, now 47, leave for two hours weekly to attend services.

"We're now going to be asking for a pass for two hours," said Parnham, who hopes that eventually she'll be allowed to leave the state's care for good. State hospital physicians consider a patient's possible risk to the community before recommending a "therapeutic" pass, the first step toward a life beyond the hospital.

Yates' attorney believes she has been ready for years to rejoin society, including getting a job and living on her own.

"I think she's ready for outpatient care," he said.

Parnham said Yates has written an unidentified area church to ask whether she could join their congregation. The defense attorney declined to provide additional details.

Yates has been confined to the state psychiatric hospital since her second 2006 trial resulted in an acquittal after jurors found her innocent by reason of insanity. She was initially convicted of capital murder for the deaths of Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke 2, and Mary, 6 months, in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison, before an appeals court granted her a new trial.

The doctor's letter will be sent to Judge Belinda Hill, who oversaw both trials.

The former nurse and stay-at-home mom had a history of psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts before June 20, 2001, when she drowned her children, one by one, in the family bathtub. Investigators would later testify that Yates had to chase the last child, her eldest, Noah, through the family home and drag him into the bathroom.

Prosecutors, who never disputed that Yates was mentally ill, argued that despite the illness, she knew right from wrong, pointing to the minutes after the children's deaths when she called 911, and that she waited until her husband left for work because she knew he would try to stop the drownings.

An appeals court threw out her 2002 conviction based on a forensic psychiatrist's erroneous testimony. In both cases, Parnham and attorney Wendell Odom urged jurors to find that Yates' mental illness led to the children's deaths.

Experts witnesses testified that Yates, who is very religious, drowned her children in an act of love to save their souls from eternal damnation.

The children's father, Rusty Yates, who has since divorced the mother of his children, remarried in 2008. He did not immediately return a call for comment to the Chronicle.

Kaylynn Williford, one of the prosecutors in the Yates case, declined to comment. Her fellow prosecutor on the case, Joe Owmby, is now in private practice.

"I have always believed - and I believe this sincerely - that once the legal decision is made of (innocent by reason of) insanity that we have laws in place to handle that," Owmby said. "I never felt it was my place to advocate one way or another … to me these are medical decisions, supervised by the judge."

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Andrea Yates seeks weekly release from mental hospital to go to church

By Terri Langford

Ten years after Andrea Yates was first convicted of murdering her five children, the Clear Lake mother might soon be allowed outside the confines of a state psychiatric hospital to go to church, her attorney told the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday.

Defense attorney George Parnham said he expects Yates' doctors at Kerrville State Hospital to file a letter in the next week, asking the state district court in Houston to let Yates, now 47, leave for two hours weekly to attend services.

"We're now going to be asking for a pass for two hours," said Parnham, who hopes that eventually she'll be allowed to leave the state's care for good. State hospital physicians consider a patient's possible risk to the community before recommending a "therapeutic" pass, the first step toward a life beyond the hospital.

Yates' attorney believes she has been ready for years to rejoin society, including getting a job and living on her own.

"I think she's ready for outpatient care," he said.

Parnham said Yates has written an unidentified area church to ask whether she could join their congregation. The defense attorney declined to provide additional details.

Yates has been confined to the state psychiatric hospital since her second 2006 trial resulted in an acquittal after jurors found her innocent by reason of insanity. She was initially convicted of capital murder for the deaths of Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke 2, and Mary, 6 months, in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison, before an appeals court granted her a new trial.

The doctor's letter will be sent to Judge Belinda Hill, who oversaw both trials.

The former nurse and stay-at-home mom had a history of psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts before June 20, 2001, when she drowned her children, one by one, in the family bathtub. Investigators would later testify that Yates had to chase the last child, her eldest, Noah, through the family home and drag him into the bathroom.

Prosecutors, who never disputed that Yates was mentally ill, argued that despite the illness, she knew right from wrong, pointing to the minutes after the children's deaths when she called 911, and that she waited until her husband left for work because she knew he would try to stop the drownings.

An appeals court threw out her 2002 conviction based on a forensic psychiatrist's erroneous testimony. In both cases, Parnham and attorney Wendell Odom urged jurors to find that Yates' mental illness led to the children's deaths.

Experts witnesses testified that Yates, who is very religious, drowned her children in an act of love to save their souls from eternal damnation.

The children's father, Rusty Yates, who has since divorced the mother of his children, remarried in 2008. He did not immediately return a call for comment to the Chronicle.

Kaylynn Williford, one of the prosecutors in the Yates case, declined to comment. Her fellow prosecutor on the case, Joe Owmby, is now in private practice.

"I have always believed - and I believe this sincerely - that once the legal decision is made of (innocent by reason of) insanity that we have laws in place to handle that," Owmby said. "I never felt it was my place to advocate one way or another … to me these are medical decisions, supervised by the judge."

It might be semantics to some, but when they use the defense of insanity in a criminal case, the person is not just insane, they are criminally insane. While the law acknowledges that someone who is criminally insane cannot understand the consequences of their actions and thus should not be punished, it should also acknowlege the risk of letting someone who cannot understand the consequences of their crimes back into society at any point.

Unless there is strong medical evidence that the behavior was isolated, (which there is not), I do not see the reason to give her a chance to become a repeat offender.


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It might be semantics to some, but when they use the defense of insanity in a criminal case, the person is not just insane, they are criminally insane. While the law acknowledges that someone who is criminally insane cannot understand the consequences of their actions and thus should not be punished, it should also acknowlege the risk of letting someone who cannot understand the consequences of their crimes back into society at any point.

Unless there is strong medical evidence that the behavior was isolated, (which there is not), I do not see the reason to give her a chance to become a repeat offender.

She is nuts. I can't see someone this brutal being set free. If a guy had done this he would have been dead by now.

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It might be semantics to some, but when they use the defense of insanity in a criminal case, the person is not just insane, they are criminally insane. While the law acknowledges that someone who is criminally insane cannot understand the consequences of their actions and thus should not be punished, it should also acknowlege the risk of letting someone who cannot understand the consequences of their crimes back into society at any point.

Unless there is strong medical evidence that the behavior was isolated, (which there is not), I do not see the reason to give her a chance to become a repeat offender.

I think I would be opposed to her working in a day-care!!

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She is nuts. I can't see someone this brutal being set free. If a guy had done this he would have been dead by now.

I really would like to see the law changed - if they use the insanity defense for violent crimes like this, they should stay locked up.


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I think I would be opposed to her working in a day-care!!

I'm sure the argument that some jackass lawyer will likely make eventually is that she is unlikely to repeat - she has no more kids. To me, anyone who could do this to their own children is more than insane, they are evil. I don't want to guess what she might be capable of.


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