HOUSTON – Jurors deliberated for a second day Tuesday without reaching a verdict in Andrea Yates‘ murder retrial but reviewed evidence, including videotapes of two psychiatrists’ interviews with the woman who drowned her five children in the bathtub.
The jury of six men and six women has already deliberated longer than the nearly four hours it took a first jury to convict her in 2002. The current jury deliberated at least 71/2 hours Tuesday and three hours Monday.
Before recessing for the day, jurors asked to review the state’s definition of insanity: that someone is so mentally ill, he does not know while committing a crime that it is wrong. Yates has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.
State District Judge Belinda Hill said jurors, who are again sequestered overnight, can see the definition Wednesday morning.
Before court was to end, jurors passed a note asking for one more hour to deliberate. But then the panel immediately passed another note rescinding that request, saying, “We need some sleep,” Hill said as she read the note, drawing laughs from those in the courtroom.
Earlier Tuesday, jurors asked to review the slide presentation of the state’s key expert witness, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Yates in May. He testified that she did not kill her children to save them from hell as she claims, but because she was overwhelmed and felt inadequate as a mother.
Welner told jurors that although Yates was psychotic on the day of the June 2001 drownings, he found 60 examples of how she knew it was wrong to kill 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah.
Yates, 42, is charged in only three of the deaths, which is common in cases involving multiple slayings.
The jury also asked to review the videotape of Yates’ July 2001 evaluation by Dr. Phillip Resnick, a forensic psychiatrist who testified she did not know killing the youngsters was wrong because she was trying to save them from hell.
Resnick told jurors that Yates was in a delusional state and believed she had ruined her children so much that they would grow up to be criminals.
Jurors later asked to review Yates’ November 2001 videotaped evaluation by Dr. Park Dietz, the state’s expert witness whose testimony led an appeals court to overturn Yates’ 2002 capital murder conviction.
Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist, testified in her first trial that an episode of the television series Law & Order depicted a woman who was acquitted by reason of insanity after drowning her children. But those involved in Yates’ case later learned no such episode existed. The judge barred attorneys in this trial from mentioning that issue.
On Tuesday, after jurors also asked for the trial transcript involving defense attorney George Parnham’s questioning of Dietz about the definition of obsessions, the judge brought the jury back into the courtroom.
The court reporter then read the brief transcript, in which Dietz said Yates “believed that Satan was at least present. She felt or sensed the presence.” Dietz had testified that Yates’ thoughts about harming her children were an obsession and a symptom of severe depression – not psychosis.
If Yates is found innocent by reason of insanity, she will be committed to a state mental hospital, with periodic hearings before a judge to determine whether she should be released – although by law, jurors are not allowed to be told that.
Yates will be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of capital murder.
A capital murder conviction in Texas carries either life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors could not seek death this time because the first trial’s jurors sentenced her to life in prison, and authorities found no new evidence.