HOUSTON — Prosecutors rested their case after showing how Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub, but defense attorneys say Yates had severe postpartum psychosis and did not know the drownings were wrong.
Defense attorneys are scheduled to begin presenting their case Thursday in Yates’ second capital murder trial. Yates’ 2002 conviction was overturned last year by an appeals court citing erroneous testimony.
Prosecutors rested Wednesday after calling 12 witnesses. Yates, 41, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity and faces life in prison if convicted.
Yates’ attorneys will try to convince jurors that a psychotic delusion prevented her from knowing that drowning her five children in the bathtub was wrong.
They have never disputed that Yates killed 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah in the family’s Houston-area home on June 20, 2001.
Attorney George Parnham said Yates was suffering from severe postpartum psychosis and, in a delusional state, had a “prophecy” in which she thought that killing the youngsters was the only way to save them. She also thought that would somehow kill Satan, he said.
“That underscores how crazy she was on the day she killed her kids,” Parnham said Wednesday outside the courthouse.
The defense must show that Yates meets the state’s legal definition of insanity. That is, that because of a severe mental disease or defect, she did not know at the time of the offense that it was wrong.
Her attorneys said the first witnesses to testify will be the jail psychiatrist who talked to Yates shortly after her arrest and another psychiatrist who treated her while she was behind bars.
Prosecution witness Luis Sanchez, Harris County medical examiner, testified Wednesday that 7-year-old Noah, the oldest of the Yates children drowned that day in 2001, struggled so hard in the tub that his small fists remained stiff and over his head even several hours later.
Noah also had deep bruises consistent with someone holding him down, as did 6-month-old Mary and 5-year-old John, Sanchez said.
The children’s father Rusty Yates, who divorced Andrea last year and married another woman in March, has said he continues to support his ex-wife and is to testify for the defense.
State District Judge Belinda Hill admonished Rusty Yates on Wednesday, when court was not in session, for being interviewed by a media agency earlier this week against her orders for sworn witnesses in the case.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty this time because the first jury rejected death and authorities did not find any new evidence.