Andrea Yates, 37, could face the death penalty if her plea of insanity is rejected on the three charges of first degree murder brought against her for the June 20, 2001 drowning, one-by-one, of her children Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, aged six months. Two charges are still pending.
Friday's testimony featured some of the most horrifying testimony yet--a videotaped interview between Doctor Park Dietz and Yates shortly after the murders. "I'm inclined to believe her. I believe she is trying to be forthcoming. At the same time, I have to be skeptical. That is my job," Dietz said, referring to Yates' belief - told to psychiatrists - that she was saving her children from Satan. "I'd expect her to try to comfort the children, telling them they're going to be with Jesus or going to be with God. But she does not offer words of comfort."
Psychiatric experts for both the prosecution and defense have testified Yates killed her children to save them from the fires of hell. Texas state law permits the insanity defense only if the jury believes that the defendant didn't know right from wrong. Yates held her children under water in the family bathroom until they ceased struggling just four months after emerging from the last of four hospitalizations for severe depression.
Her downhill slide began in 1999 and escalated dramatically after the death of her father in March, 2001. Two of the hospital stays came after she attempted suicide. The prosecution contends that although insane, Yates killed her children to escape an overwhelming workload that included home schooling, and a passionate desire not to have any more babies.
Defense witnesses have testified Yates and her husband Russell, also 37, who works as an engineer at Houston's Johnson Space Center, desired as many children as were "biologically possible."
The Yates parents were devotees of evangelist Michael Woroniecki, whose teachings feature a heavy dose of devils, demons and the fires of hell. In testimony, Russell Yates said that Woroneicki teaches that unless children are "saved" by the time that they reach 14 or 15, they are lost forever to God. It is this teaching that defense attorney George Parnham claims resulted in the deaths of the children.
Defense psychiatric experts claim that Yates killed all five in a tub of cold water to "save them from the fires of hell" while they were still young and innocent enough to be saved. Yates, who was taken off the antipsychotic medication Haldol by her physician after her last hospitalization before the killings, confessed she killed her children because they were not developing properly and because "Satan told me to kill them."
Russell Yates has supported his wife throughout the couple's ordeal, and each day has sat outside the wood paneled courtroom on a hard oak bench playing the computer game, Tetris. He continues to live in the couple's suburban Houston home and even bathes the family dog in the bathtub where his children were killed. "They are not there anymore," he said.
The children's maternal grandmother, Utta Karin Kennedy, also sits, sometimes weeping, during the oft-gruesome testimony. When asked how she is holding up under her ordeal, she told AFP, "Every day is a bad day."
The case is expected to go to the 12-member jury next week. Should Yates be found guilty, she could either be sentenced to death or life in prison. If she is found not guilty by reason of insanity, she will spend an indefinite amount of time in a mental hospital.