Andrea Yates’ attorney says she wants to avoid retrial
HOUSTON – Andrea Yates, the Houston mother accused of drowning her five young children in the family bathtub in 2001, doesn’t want to face another trial if it can be avoided, her attorney said Saturday after visiting her in prison.”She doesn’t want to go through the process of a retrial,” attorney George Parnham said. “But we are prepared to defend her all the way.”It was the first time Parnham had talked with Yates since Wednesday, when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals let stand a lower court’s decision to overturn Yates’ capital murder convictions.”She had been informed prior to my arrival of the turn of events and she is concerned, obviously,” Parnham said. “But we’ll see what the legal future holds for her.”The First Court of Appeals in Houston overturned Yates’ convictions in January because of false testimony from forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz.Dietz testified that an episode of “Law & Order” in which a woman with postpartum depression drowned her children and was found insane aired shortly before Yates drowned her five children. Such an episode never existed.Prosecutors plan to retry Yates, and Parnham said Saturday that he doubts the two sides will reach a plea agreement.Yates, 41, has for years undergone treatment for mental illness and required anti-psychotic medication, which she continues to receive at the prison unit where she is housed. Parnham and Yates’ former husband believe she belongs in a state mental hospital, not prison.Prosecutors are confident a second trial will again result in convictions.Based on the appeals court ruling, however, they will be unable to seek the death penalty against her. If Yates is convicted again, the only possible sentence will be life in prison unless a lesser charge is considered.Parnham said that will widen the jury pool and could help Yates.”Studies have shown that juries that are death qualified are less understanding of insanity and mental illness,” he said. “It very definitely will be this time a trial by a jury of her peers.”Jurors in Yates’ first trial rejected her insanity defense. They convicted her of two capital murder charges for drowning three of her five children and sentenced her to life in prison. She was not charged in the deaths of the other two.Yates called police and an ambulance to her home on June 20, 2001. She answered the door in wet clothes and led the officer to a back bedroom where the four youngest children’s lifeless bodies were laid out on a bed. Police found the oldest child, Noah, 7, floating face down in the tub.During her trial, psychiatrists testified that Yates suffered from schizophrenia and postpartum depression, but defense and prosecution expert witnesses disagreed over the severity of her illness and whether it prevented her from knowing that drowning her children was wrong.