Guilty or not guility
1. Andrea Yates was a thirty-six year old woman with five children and a history of mental illness. In June of 2001, she killed all five of her children. Andrea filled the bathtub with water and beginning with Paul, she systematically drowned the three youngest boys, then placed them on her bed and covered them. Mary was left floating in the tub. The last child alive was the first born, seven-year-old Noah. He asked his mother what was wrong with Mary, then turned and ran away. Andrea caught up with him and as he screamed, she dragged him and forced him into the tub next to Mary’s floating body. He fought desperately, coming up for air twice, but Andrea held him down until he was dead. Leaving Noah in the tub, she brought Mary to the bed and laid her in the arms of her brothers.
Andrea Yates was charged with capital murder. The first jury that heard the case found her guilty but the answers to the questions in the punishment phase resulted in her receiving an automatic life sentence instead of the death penalty. Ms. Yates attorneys appealed her case and the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction. The highest appellate court in the State agreed with the Court of Appeals and the case went back to the trial court for a new trial. The second jury who heard the case found Andrea Yates “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity”. That decision was not appealed.
The decision to reverse the first jury’s verdict was not based on whether she was in fact insane at the time of the offense or not but was based on an error in the trial. The opinion of the Court of Appeals is included in it’s entirety below.
You need to apply Texas law concerning insanity and write an opinion applying that law, which reflects your belief, as to whether the burden of proof was met by the proper party to prove she was or was not insane at the time of the offense.
There has long been a philosophical debate as to whether insanity should have a bearing on the question of guilt or should it be relevant only to the issue of the disposition or punishment of the convicted offender. You need to formulate an opinion each way and explain those positions using Texas law.
2. Whether to charge an individual with criminal liability as a party to an offense can be a very difficult decision. Applying Texas law, do you think Russell Yates should have been charged as a party with the death of his children? Explain your opinion and reasoning thoroughly.
Court of Appeals
First District of Texas
ANDREA PIA YATES, Appellant
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee
On Appeal from the 230th District Court
Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause Nos. 880205 & 883590
O P I N I O N
Appellant, Andrea Pia Yates, was charged by two indictments with capital murder for the drowning deaths of three of her five children. Footnote ‘ ); document.write( WPFootnote1 ); document.write( ‘
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Close Rejecting appellant’s insanity defense, the jury found her guilty and, having answered the special issue regarding appellant’s continuing threat to society ” No,” assessed punishment at life in prison. Following the verdict and before the punishment phase of the trial, appellant learned that the State’s expert witness, Dr. Park Dietz, had presented false testimony. Appellant moved for mistrial, but the trial court denied the motion. Appellant asserts 19 points of error in which she challenges, among other things, the factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict rejecting the insanity defense, the denial of a motion for mistrial based on false testimony, and the denial of her right to due process by the use of false or perjured testimony. We reverse and remand.
Appellant was charged in cause number 880205 with intentionally and knowinglycausing the deaths of Noah Yates and John Yates. See Tex. Pen. Code Ann.§ 19.03(a)(7)(A) (Vernon Supp. 2004-2005) (providing that murder of more than one personin same transaction is capital murder). Appellant was charged in cause number 883590 withintentionally and knowingly causing the death of Mary Yates. See Tex. Pen. Code Ann.§ 19.03(a)(8) (Vernon Supp. 2004-2005) (providing that murder of an individual under sixyears of age is capital murder).
Appellant and Russell Yates (Yates) were married on April 17, 1993. Their first child, Noah, was born in February 1994; their second child, John, was born in December 1995; and their third child, Paul, was born in September 1997. During this time, the Yates family moved from Friendswood to Florida and back to the Houston area, living in a recreational vehicle. In 1998, they moved from the recreational vehicle to a converted bus and continued to live in a trailer park. At one point, appellant told her husband she felt depressed and overwhelmed, and he suggested that she talk to her mother and a friend.
In February 1999, a fourth child, Luke, was born. On June 18, 1999, appellant suffered severe depression and tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of an antidepressant that had been prescribed for her father. She was admitted to the psychiatric unit of Methodist Hospital. After her release six days later, she began seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Eileen Starbranch, as an outpatient. On July 20, 1999, Yates found appellant in the bathroom, holding a knife to her neck. Dr. Starbranch recommended that appellant be admitted to Spring Shadows Glen Hospital. Appellant was admitted, against her wishes, the next day. At Spring Shadows Glen, appellant told a psychologist, Dr. James Thompson, that she had had visions and had heard voices since the birth of her first child. Dr. Starbranch ranked appellant, at the time of her admission to Spring Shadows Glen, among the five sickest patients she had ever seen. Before discharging appellant from the hospital, Dr. Starbranch told appellant and Yates that appellant had a high risk of another psychotic episode if she had another baby.
In August 1999, the Yates family moved from the converted bus to a house that Yates had bought while appellant was in the hospital. That fall, appellant began home-schooling Noah. Appellant saw Dr. Starbranch for the last time on January 12, 2000. She told Dr. Starbranch that she had stopped taking her medication in November 1999. In November 2000, appellant’s fifth child, Mary, was born. In March 2001, appellant’s father died. This death seemed to precipitate a decline in appellant’s functioning, and she began to suffer from depression. On March 28, 2001, Yates contacted Dr. Starbranch and told her that appellant was ill again. Dr. Starbranch wanted to see appellant immediately, but Yates said he could not bring her in until the next Monday.
Appellant was not taken to Dr. Starbranch’s office, but was admitted to Devereux Hospital in League City on March 31, 2001. There, she was observed as being catatonic or nearly catatonic and possibly delusional or having bizarre thoughts. She was treated by Dr. Mohammed Saeed and was placed on a suicide watch. Appellant was discharged on April 13, 2001 upon her own and Yates’s request. She began an outpatient program at Devereux, and Dr. Saeed recommended that someone stay with her at all times and that she not be left alone with her children.
On April 19, Yates’s mother came for a visit. She had intended to stay for about one week, but, when Yates told his mother that appellant was suffering from depression, his mother decided to stay longer and moved to a nearby extended-stay hotel.
Yates’a s mother went to appellant’s home every day. She observed that appellant was almost catatonic, did not respond to conversation or made a delayed response, stared into space, trembled, scratched her head until she created bald spots, and did not eat. On May 3, appellant filled a bathtub with water, but could not give a good reason for doing so. When asked, she said, &
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