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Andrea Yates Case

Andrea Yates Case Analysis





Andrea Yates Case Analysis

Andrea Yates is infamous for murdering her five children by drowning each of them in a bathtub. Yates was found guilty for the crime of murder and sentenced to life in a correctional facility. This sentence as later overturned and Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a Texas state forensic psychiatric hospital. Andreas Yates was suffering with an extreme case of post partum depression when she murdered her children. Despite a clear history of mental illness Yates was not found legally mentally ill and was sentenced to prison.

On June 20, 2001 Yates waited for her husband to leave for work before filling up the bathtub and drowning each of her five children one at a time. Before Yates killed her children and had a total mental break down, she had a normal life and a normal marriage. Andrea married Russell Yates ten years before the incident and they lead a relatively normal life. The trouble began in 1999 when Yates first began to show signs of depression. The depression spiraled out of control and Yates overdosed. Her husband reported to doctors self destructive and he feared what she would do. Yates was hospitalized or the first time.

When the depression began to surface Yates had already given birth to four children and experienced on miscarriage. When Yates was hospitalized she was put on anti-depressants and was instructed not to have any more children. The psychiatrist believed there was a link between the repeated pregnancies and Yates extreme depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite this warning the couple had another child after the hospitalization. At the time of the tragic murders the children were Noah, 7 years old, John, 5 years, Paul, 3 years, Luke, 2 years, and Mary just a few weeks old.

After Andrea gave birth to Mary she became catatonic and her depression spiraled out of control. Despite her mental illness no one took steps to help her. After she killed her children she was quickly tried and found competent to stand trial. Her defense team struggled to show the jury she was insane but Andrea insisted there was nothing wrong with her mind and expressed she deserved to die (Denno, 2003). Instead of assisting in her defense she seemed to be awaiting punishment for her sins. Everyone in Yates life knew she was mentally ill and testified to her extreme behavior.

Not only did Yates suffer from depression she displayed religious fanaticisms. According to Andrea, she killed her children to save them from Satan and her own evil maternal influences, 20 delusions that did little to help Andrea’s defense because they fueled her own desire for punishment (Denno, 2003). Despite witnesses account and medical reports Yates was found guilty of murdering her five children by a jury and sentenced to life in prison. The prosecutor sought the death penalty. It took three years but the case was overturned and instead Yates was placed in a mental health facility.

Andrea Yates claimed she thought of killing her children for two years. She believed she was a bad mother and they were not growing up properly. She believed her children would be better off dead. Yates believed she had been marked by the Devil and that if she let her children grow into adulthood they would go to Hell. When she killed her five children she thought she was freeing them from going to Hell. In the end though, Yates case was not overturned because she was considered mentally ill but due to false testimony given during the trial the courts failed Yates when she was imprisoned despite being obviously mentally ill.

There are many different theories of crime to explain why people commit violent crimes. People theorize criminals commit crimes because they make a rational choice to do so while other theories blame the social environment. In the case of the mentally ill biological theories would best explain Yates behavior? In Andrea Yates family there was a family history of mental illness with her father having depression. According to biological theories of crime people commit crimes due to a genetic tendency to commit crimes. In Andrea’s case the mental illness may have been genetic but lacks of medical care caused her psychosis and ultimately mental breakdown.

Between arrest and trial Andrea Yates went through a series of psychological evaluations. Yates was locked up immediately after she was arrested and reported seeing satanic teddy bears and ducks on the walls of her cell. Despite being extremely sick Yates claimed she was not depressed or insane despite the facts she began having hallucinations after the birth of her first child and her mental health only got worse as each child was born. When Yates went in front of the court she had no layer so a public defender, Bob Scott, was appointed.

Dr. Lucy Puryear, a psychiatrist from the Baylor College of Medicine, said on Court TV's Mugshots program "She was the sickest person I had ever seen in my life” (Ramsland, 2012). The court ordered a psychological evaluation of Yates, the psychologists found she was competent to stand trial. Yates psychiatrists, however, found the opposite was true. In other words, she was not able to participate in her own defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and comprehension of the court proceedings (Ramsland, 2012).

Defense attorney fought this finding of competency and an additional hearing was held to determine her competency. She was once again found competent to stand trial while clearly mentally ill. The court proceedings were delayed while Yates was properly treated. Once she was feeling better and the medication helped to control her mental illness she was ready to stand trial. The psychologists in Yates trial assessed her mental health and testified in the court. The psychologist from the state gave a different perspective on Yates mental illness. Even though the state psychologist found she was competent to stand trial he did find she was also mentally ill.

The types of types of forensic evaluations were conducted on Andrea Yates was three examinations to determine her competency to stand trial as well as forensic evaluations were conducted on her mental state at the time she killed her children. Three different psychiatrists testified to the mental state of Yates with two finding she was having a psychotic episode at the time of their death (Cohen, 2012). The examination included an examination of her past mental states and history as well as work and religious history.

Andrea Yates was charged with two counts of capital murder and pled not guilty by reasons of insanity. The prosecutor did not charge for all of the murders in case the jury found her not guilty. When a crime, such as the murder of five small children, occurs in society members of the public become outraged. Prosecutors seek justice by ensuring the murder pays the harshest possible price for their crime. In the case of Yates prosecutors and members of the court ignored the fact that Yates was the reason for insanity defenses. She is clearly mentally ill but the court and jury turned their backs on this evidence and sent the vulnerable women to prison.

One of the concerns addressed at the Yates original trial concerning jury selection was finding a jury that had not heard of the case. It is difficult to have an impartial jury when the jury already knows information about the case from the media. The same concern was posed in the second trial especially after the whole world new Yates killed her five children and that she had been found guilty of the crime previously.

At the trial several expert psychological witnesses testified. Mohammad A. Saeed, M.D., Gerald Harris, and Steven J. Rubenzer, Ph.D. all testified about the mental health of Andréa Yates at the trial. Dr. Saied treated Yates when she was hospitalized immediately after killing her five children. Saied testified to the extreme mental illness he witnessed and testified Yates was in a catatonic state (Dietz, 2002). Rubenzer testified Yates was competent to stand trial and also testified her claims about Satan were vague despite the fact she had discussed going to hell for years.

In the first trial Yates was found guilty of killing her children. Despite a clear history of mental illness the jury rejected her insanity defense. Some raised the issue that the jury might have made a different decision had they understood that an NGRI verdict would have kept Andrea institutionalized and would have ensured mental health treatment (Ramsland, 2012). After finding her guilty the jury had to decide if she would die but they instead sentenced her to life in jail. It took years of appeals and fighting from her defense attorneys before the case was overthrown and Yates was given a new trial.

In the first trial the prosecutor insisted Yates new the difference between right and wrong despite expert testimony to the contrary. Because the act was planned and Yates waited for her husband to leave the prosecutor claimed her actions were calculated and premeditated. In the second trial Yates was granted the trial because of false testimony not because of the verdict. In the second trial Yates also pled not guilty for reasons of insanity. In the new trial the jury had also been exposed to the case but also had been exposed to information on post partum depression making them more educated on the topic and more understanding about a mentally ill woman killing her children.

The end result of the second trial was totally different from the end result of the first trial. In the second trial the jurors were far more willing to accept evidence of Yates mental illness and in the end found her not guilty by reasons of insanity. This does not mean Yates gets to come home but instead she will stay in a mental institution until doctors deem she is no longer a danger to herself or others. This could mean she could be released in a year or she could be released in ten years. Currently Yates is still in a Texas mental health institution receiving the mental health treatment she needs.

In the Andrea Yates first trial justice was not served. It is shocking a mother would drown her five children but the court has not right to turn their back on clear evidence of mental illness. There was little doubt Yates was mentally ill and should never have been found guilty by a jury. N the second trial the jury was more rational and less emotional in making their decision about the verdict resulting in the NGRI verdict. In the second trial justice was served. After conducting the analysis it became clear getting a jury to find a defendant criminally insane is extremely difficult even if the defendant is mentally ill.


Cohan, A. (2012). How Andrea Yates Lives, and Lives With Herself, a Decade Later. Retrieved

December 22, 2013 from

Denno, D. (2003). Who is Andrea Yates? A short story about insanity. Duke Law.

Park, M. (2008). The Strange Case of Andrea Yates. Victorian Bar News, No. 143(1): 85

McClellan. F. (2006). Mental health and justice: the case of Andrea Yates. Retrieved December

22, 2013 from

Ramsland, K. (2012). Andrea Yates: Ill or Evil? Crime Library. Retrieved December 22, 2013


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