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Texas court orders new trial for Yates

By Nicole Colson | January 14, 2005 | Page 2

IN A surprise move, a Texas appeals court last week granted a new trial to Andrea Yates, the woman convicted in 2002 of drowning her children in a bathtub.

Despite the fact that Yates suffered from severe mental illness--she explained to police that she had killed her children to save them from Satan because she was a "bad mother"--and had twice attempted suicide, Texas prosecutors showed no mercy to her or her devastated family.

Proving that they would sink to any level to get a conviction, prosecutors relied on the testimony of psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz, who told the jury that Yates--while psychotic at the time of the murders--knew right from wrong, making her ineligible for an insanity plea under Texas law.

Dietz even suggested to the jury that Yates might have staged her defense. Dietz--a consultant for the television show Law & Order, which Yates reportedly liked to watch--testified that "there was a show of a woman with postpartum depression who drowned her children in the bathtub and was found insane, and it was aired shortly before the crime occurred."

But it turns out that Dietz was lying. No such episode ever existed.

Incredibly, this information about Dietz's lies came to light during the trial--after Yates had been found guilty, but before she had been sentenced--but the court denied a defense request for a mistrial.

Last week, the appeals court ruled that Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury--and that Yates should therefore receive a new trial. Prosecutors immediately complained about the ruling and vowed to reverse the court's decision.

While they appeal, Andrea Yates will remain in prison--continuing to be punished for her mental illness.

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