Andrea Yates, the Texas woman convicted on murdering her five children, will begin the sentencing phase of her trial today. Tuesday, the jury rejected her defense that she was insane at the time of the murders. Evidence that she had twice tried to commit suicide and was on strong, anti-psychosis medication for postpartum psychosis did not prove influential enough to sway jurors. The trial will now move to the sentencing phase to determine whether Yates will receive life in prison or be given the death penalty. Had the jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity she could have been moved to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, characterized the Yates verdict as “tragic.” “What has happened to Andrea Yates demonstrates the need for us to re-evaluate what constitutes insanity as a legal defense,” said Smeal. “It is a sad commentary on the state of our judicial system, when someone who is as mentally ill as Andrea Yates is denied the psychiatric treatment she so desperately needs, and rather, is sent to rot away in a state prison or, even worse, put to death for crimes that she may never fully comprehend.”