Doctor who caused Andrea Yates retrial returns to the stand
July 17, 2006
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday July 18, 2006
Dr. Park Dietz, testifying for the prosecution during its rebuttal phase, resumes the stand Monday.
He evaluated Yates more than four months after she drowned her five children in the bathtub in 2001, and he has told jurors that she knew killing them was wrong.
Dietz testified Thursday and Friday, in which court was in session half a day.
Prosecutors were also expected Monday to call Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Yates in May.
After prosecutors rest their case, defense attorneys will call their rebuttal witnesses. Closing arguments are expected later this week.
Dietz’s testimony in Yates’ first trial led an appeals court to overturn her 2002 murder conviction.
Dietz, also a consultant to “Law & Order,” said an episode of the television series was about a woman being acquitted by reason of insanity after drowning her children in a tub. After Yates’ conviction but before she was sentenced to life in prison, those involved in the case discovered no such episode existed.
The judge has barred attorneys from mentioning anything about that issue in this trial.
Insanity defense rebutted
Yates, 42, charged in only three of the children’s deaths, has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. She will be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
Her attorneys say she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and did not know that drowning 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah was wrong.
But prosecutors say Yates’ actions belie those claims. She drowned the youngsters during the hour when she would be alone with them, after her husband went to work and before her mother-in-law arrived to help care for them.
Then Yates called police, and she later told a detective she killed them because she was a bad mother and wanted to be punished, according to testimony.
Although Andrea Yates tried to commit suicide twice and was diagnosed with five mental illnesses, she never acted “grossly psychotic” until she drowned her five children, Dietz told the jury last week.
“She had brand-new symptoms after she got to the jail,” he said.
Dietz aid Yates acted “floridly or grossly psychotic” only after her arrest, when she told a jail psychiatrist about a delusion. Yates also said that right after her arrest, jail graffiti resembled her oldest son, Noah, on the cross and she thought she heard Satan speak to her, according to a tape played for jurors.
Lost her identity
Dietz also said it’s unclear if Yates’ depression in 1999 was postpartum because her suicide attempts came four and five months after Luke was born. After she was released from the mental hospital, she didn’t take her medication and she and her husband ignored another psychiatrist’s advice not to have more children, Dietz said.
But Dietz said a larger contributor to Yates’ mental problems was losing her identity after marrying Rusty Yates, who picked out all of their children’s names and made her convert from Catholicism to another religion. Yates also quit a nursing career when she married and had a miscarriage among the five births.
Dietz said that in 1999, Yates apparently had a delusion of cameras watching her in her house, but she never told anyone except her husband — and neither told doctors about the incident.
“That’s the missing link, and it’s not revealed, and it’s tragic,” he said.
Dietz said her depression returned in March 2001 after her father died, unrelated to the birth of her fifth child, Mary, the previous November.
Yates felt guilty for being unable to care for her children while she was hospitalized twice at a mental facility for a couple of weeks in April and May, and when she returned, her children had bonded with their paternal grandmother and wouldn’t go to Yates, Dietz said.
“She kept holding Mary to keep her close,” Dietz said.
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