HOUSTON – Nearly two years after Andrea Yates‘ conviction for drowning her children in the family’s bathtub, her husband continues to assert his mentally ill wife never should have been prosecuted.
“Why do we even have insanity laws if they are not based on medical insanity?” Russell Yates asked of the Texas insanity law.
The law requires a defendant to prove they suffer from a severe mental disease or defect and did not know their actions were wrong to be deemed innocent by reason of insanity.
Jurors rejected Andrea Yates’ insanity plea and found her guilty of capital murder in March 2002. She was sentenced to life in prison for the drowning of three of her five children, all under age 7. She was not tried in the deaths of the other two.
Police found the four youngest children’s lifeless wet bodies under a sheet on her bed on June 20, 2001. The oldest child, Noah, 7, was found floating face down with his arms outstretched in the family’s bathtub after Andrea Yates drowned her children and then dialed 911. She later confessed.
“My feelings toward the judge, the prosecutors, our legal system really haven’t changed,” Russell Yates told The Associated Press. “Most people in Texas believe if someone is brought up on charges they are guilty. In Harris County, it is guilty until proven innocent.”
Russell Yates said his wife should have received mental health treatment.
He blames a doctor who treated Andrea Yates prior to her children’s deaths, prosecutors, an expert witness at her trial and the judge on a Web site he created shortly after the deaths to study his wife’s case, memorialize his children and find solutions so other children won’t die.
“If we feel the government is proceeding wrongly against us, then we have a civil right to publicly object,” Russell Yates wrote this month on www.yateskids.org. “Every member of our family believed that the state was proceeding wrongly against Andrea, and Judge (Belinda) Hill prohibited us from speaking.”
Hill issued a gag order in the case six days after Andrea Yates was arrested, saying she feared media attention would taint a potential jury pool. The judge said she wanted to secure a fair and impartial panel for the case.
But Russell Yates claimed that Hill allowed the prosecution to operate behind “closed doors,” and denied Andrea Yates family members’ reserved seating in the courtroom.
“Throughout the trial, the court treated our family contemptuously, and the jury could not see that Andrea had any supporters in the courtroom,” Yates wrote on his Web site. “During Andrea’s trial, Judge Hill closed the doors and drew the curtains.”
Hill told the AP she could not comment because the case is still pending.
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who also is criticized on the Web site, said he didn’t want to “dignify anything (Russell Yates) has to say.”
Defense attorneys have until next month to file an appeal of Yates’ capital murder conviction.
Andrea Yates remains jailed at the Skyview Unit in Rusk, where she works in an outdoor flower garden. About 50 of the more than 500 inmates at the psychiatric facility are women.
Russell Yates continues working at the Johnson Space Center and is trying to sell the one-story brown brick home where his children were killed.
He typically goes to see his wife every other weekend, trading off with other family members.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s tough because I look back on the family we had and the happiness we had.
“It is very hard to see the woman I married and the woman who bore my children suffering. I hate it. I enjoy visiting with her but I hate to see where she is.”