HOUSTON – Andrea Yates and the jurors in her capital murder trial cried openly Thursday as they were shown a crime scene photograph of four of her drowned children and a videotape of her oldest son floating in a bathtub in the family's Houston home.
The images were displayed on a large screen in the courtroom and on television monitors at the defense table, where Yates sat. After she began to cry, prosecutor Kaylynn Williford stopped showing photos on the screen and the monitor and only displayed them to the jurors.
However as jurors watched a videotape of the outside and inside of the Yates home, Yates sobbed again as Noah's body appeared on the tape, and tears rolled down her cheeks as the video showed the lifeless bodies of the four youngest children on the bed.
Some of the jurors also cried.
Yates, 37, faces two capital murder charges: one covering the drownings of Noah and John, 5, and the other covering 6-month-old Mary.
Multiple murders and the slaying of a child under age 6 are death-penalty eligible in Texas. Charges eventually could be filed in the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2.
The photos were introduced during the testimony of Houston police crime scene unit officer Glenn West, who said he found one of Luke's socks in the soggy hallway between the back bedroom and the bathroom, where Noah was floating in the murky water.
"As I stepped out of the living room into the hallway, there was a water trail all the way from the bathroom back into the bedroom," West testified.
Bowls and a box of cereal were on the kitchen table, he told jurors. A baby carrier was found in the bathroom by the tub.
On Wednesday, prosecutors and defense lawyers had haggled over which of the 39 photos should be admitted into evidence. Yates, who has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity and who is taking powerful anti-psychotic drugs as she attends the trial, was not in the courtroom then.
Williford said Wednesday the court might consider the issue of whether Yates should be in the courtroom when the photos were shown if it is raised by defense attorneys. But she said she has not been involved in a case where a defendant was not present when jurors were shown evidence. Prosecutors later plan to present autopsy photos.
State District Judge Belinda Hill admitted 29 of the photos, including close-ups of the children's faces and detailed bruising, plus the videotape.
Hill abruptly recessed the trial for the day Wednesday afternoon, citing an emergency unrelated to the case. Just before Hill's announcement, a male juror was escorted by a bailiff into a back office and later returned to the jury room. Hill then entered the jury room and re-emerged with the announcement.
On Wednesday, jurors heard just 45 minutes of testimony.
At issue during the expected three-week trial is whether Yates suffered from a severe mental disease and knew the difference between right and wrong at the time of the drownings.
If Yates is found innocent by reason of insanity, a hearing will be held at least 30 days later where she will either be released or involuntarily committed. If jurors convict her, they must determine if she poses a future danger to society and if there is enough mitigating evidence to sentence her to life in prison rather than death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.