Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Women Who Kill: Part Two

Trial & Sentence

She was charged with knowingly and intentionally causing the deaths of the children with a deadly weapon (water), and her case became a high profile arena for the battle of medical experts. At her hearing, her prison psychologist, Dr. Gerald Harris, claimed that she wanted to be executed so that she and Satan, who possessed her, would be destroyed. While she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, her competency even to be tried came under question. She claimed that Satan was coming to her in prison and conversing with her and she insisted she would not enter a plea of not guilty. She did not need an attorney, and she wanted her hair cut into the shape of a crown. She believed the number of the Antichrist, 666, was imprinted on her scalp. Still, the judge felt she could assist in her own defense.

During the trial in early 2002 for the deaths of Noah, John and Mary, psychiatrist Phillip Resnick defended her, explaining that she suffered from schizophrenic delusions and believed that killing her children was the right thing to do, while psychiatrist Park Dietz aligned himself with the prosecution. He admitted that she was seriously ill, but insisted that she had known that what she was doing was wrong. He also pointed out that she did not act like a mother who believed she was saving her children from Satan, and she had kept her plan a secret from others. She even admitted that she knew what she had done was wrong, and by Texas law, these facts were sufficient for the jury to convict Yates of first-degree murder.

Texas once had allowed insanity to include the inability to conform one's acts in accordance with the law, but then they'd dropped that part and decided that knowledge alone could serve as the criterion.

During the penalty phase, the same jury quickly returned a sentence of life in prison rather than death, and Andrea Yates received this news with little emotion.

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