HOUSTON – A sheriff's deputy who overheard Andrea Yates' interview with a jail psychiatrist the day after she drowned her five children in the bathtub testified Wednesday that she said she decided to do it the night before and knew it was wrong.
"She said, `I considered using a knife, but that would be too bloody. I considered using a gun, but that would be too noisy. I decided that drowning would be the safest way to take them into the next world,"' Deputy Michael Stephens told jurors in Yates' second capital murder trial.
Stephens, who stood guard as Dr. Melissa Ferguson and other staffers interviewed Yates the day after the June 20, 2001, drownings, said he didn't hear Yates mention a prophecy that Satan was living inside her or that she had to be executed in order for Satan to be killed and for her children to be saved from hell.
Ferguson previously testified for the defense that Yates told her about that prophecy.
Yates, 42, is being retried because her 2002 conviction was overturned by an appeals court that ruled erroneous testimony might have influenced the jury.
She has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. Her attorneys say she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and did not know that killing the children was wrong.
Stephens said Ferguson asked him to be there because she didn't know what mental state Yates would be in. Stephens said Yates initially was calm during the interview but later became agitated when talking about killing 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John, 3-year-old Paul, 2-year-old Luke and 6-month-old Mary. Stephens said the staff also became upset and had to take several breaks.
Yates called herself stupid about four times, getting louder each time, he said. She also said she was a bad mother, he said.
"Mrs. Yates (said), `I realized I only had to kill one to justify all of them," said Stephens, testifying for prosecutors during their rebuttal. "I should have just killed Mary. She was the youngest. She didn't struggle. Russell wanted another boy for his basketball team. He didn't want her anyway."
Under cross-examination, Stephens said this was the first mental-health evaluation he had witnessed, and that he sometimes walked away to tend to other matters, so he did not hear everything that was said.
He said he wrote notes about the exam eight months later, although he was not asked to do so. He gave the notes to prosecutors after they contacted him.
Prosecutors said they planned to call Dr. Park Dietz, the forensic psychiatrist whose testimony inadvertently led to Yates' conviction being overturned, either Wednesday or Thursday.
Dietz evaluated Yates and told jurors in the first trial that she knew drowning the children was wrong. Dietz, also a "Law & Order" television series consultant, said that one episode showed a woman being acquitted by reason of insanity after drowning her children in the tub. After Yates' conviction, those involved in the case discovered no such episode existed.