Judge Delays Yates' Murder Trial

A judge on Monday delayed Andrea Yates' capital murder retrial until June because of witness problems cited by her defense attorney.

Jury selection in her retrial for the 2001 bathtub drowning deaths of her children had been scheduled to begin Monday.

But late last week, Yates' attorneys asked State District Judge Belinda Hill to reschedule the trial because two of their defense experts wouldn't be able to testify if the trial began as scheduled. Hill on Monday set jury selection for June 22, with testimony scheduled to begin June 26.

Attorneys George Parnham and Wendell Odom asked Hill to consider the importance the testimony offered by psychiatrists Dr. George Ringholz and Dr. Lucy Puryear in Yates' original 2002 trial.

Parnham and Odom said the two experts are extremely important to their defense and to try Yates without the two experts would "deny her a fair trial."

Hill had earlier denied a request by Parnham to delay the trial. In that initial request, Parnham cited an intense focus on plea negotiations, which broke down earlier this year, and a double jeopardy appeal.

An appeals court last week cleared the way for Yates' retrial, which Parnham argued should be halted because he said prosecutorial misconduct in her 2002 trial would result in double jeopardy if she were tried again. He also requested that the appeals court delay the trial.

The appeals court upheld Hill's ruling that there was no prosecutorial misconduct and denied Parnham's emergency request for a delay.

Hill ruled this month there couldn't be double jeopardy without prosecutorial misconduct and deemed the claim frivolous.

Last year, the First Court of Appeals overturned Yates' two capital murder convictions based on testimony from forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz about an episode of the television drama "Law & Order."

Dietz said his testimony about a nonexistent episode of "Law & Order," which he said aired in the weeks before Yates' arrest, was a mistake. Dietz described an episode in which a woman was acquitted by reason of insanity of killing her child. Jurors learned of the incorrect testimony after they convicted Yates, but before they sentenced her to life in prison.

Earlier this month, Hill ruled prosecutors were unaware Dietz's testimony was false. The judge noted the incorrect testimony came in response to a question by Parnham and that when he asked for a mistrial, Parnham made no claim of prosecutorial misconduct.

Parnham said he didn't claim prosecutorial misconduct at the time because at the time, he hadn't realized it had occurred.

Yates, 41, has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

To prove insanity, Yates must show she suffered from a severe mental disease or defect and didn't know her actions were wrong.

Yates called police to her Houston home in June 2001, where an officer found the bodies of her four youngest children — John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2 and Mary, 6-months — laid out on a bed. The oldest, 7-year-old Noah, was discovered floating face down in the tub's murky brown water. Hours later Yates confessed to the drownings.

Psychiatrists in Yates' original trial testified she suffered from schizophrenia and postpartum depression, but expert witnesses disagreed over the severity of her illness and whether it prevented her from knowing that drowning her children was wrong.