Andrea Yates now faces the death penalty for the murders of her five children.
The Houston mother was suffering from post partum depression, perhaps post partum psychosis. Her defense team claims she didn't know what she was doing, in the sense of knowing right from wrong, when she killed her children.
Her husband is facing a complete wipeout of his family. His wife killed his kids, now the state may end up killing his wife.
If it is right to execute Andrea Yates, who does the execution benefit?
Not her husband. Not her kids. And it's certainly not a punishment that will teach her a lesson.
How about other mothers who may be wavering with their post partum depression, and thinking … well if I kill my kids, are they going to execute me?
I don't think this particular small number of women thinks that way.
I think the only justification for this execution is that society cannot tolerate a person such as this continuing to breathe and live among us, that we need to dispatch such a person in order to remain a healthy society.
Those who oppose the death penalty will argue that it is stupid to execute an obviously sick person, that a state-sanctioned killing is still a violent death that perpetuates the cycle of violence, and adds to the problem of killing, instead of reducing it.
Those are good arguments, but ultimately I come down the other way.
Some people get into a towering uncontrollable rage and they say to themselves in the moment before murder ... I can sit in a cell forever if I can just blow this one away, just once let me vent and rage.
It seems to me that there is some — at least — theoretical deterrent in the reality of execution, and that there is deterrent in it being public policy so that we don't feel so sorry for a mom under pressure that we let her have five free murders.
Sure, it's going to be an ugly day when Andrea Yates is executed. It will also be an ugly day if she is sentenced in such a way that the mental state that led her to murder also leads her to an escape route.
Capital punishment is an ugly business. If we're going to do it, we should do it to bring about the greatest deterrent, not back off when it's difficult.
That leads to people thinking they can kill and live, and that will lead to more killing
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