HOUSTON – Jurors deliberating for a second day in Andrea Yates' murder trial asked Tuesday to review evidence from a key prosecution expert who said he found 60 examples of Yates knowing that drowning her five children in their bathtub was wrong.
The jury, which was sequestered for the night, already had deliberated longer than the four hours it took a first jury to convict her of murder in 2002. An appeals court overturned that conviction because erroneous testimony may have influenced jurors.
Shortly before a lunch break, jurors asked to review the slide presentation by Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Yates in May and testified that she did not kill her children to save them, as she claims, but because she was overwhelmed and felt inadequate as a mother.
Welner said that although Yates was psychotic on the day of the June 2001 drownings, he found multiple examples of how she knew that killing 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah was wrong.
Yates, 42, who has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, is charged in only three of the children's deaths.
If the jurors find her innocent by reason of insanity, Yates will be committed to a state mental hospital, with periodic hearings before a judge to determine whether she should be released — though prosecutors weren't allowed to tell that to the jury. If convicted of murder, she will be sentenced to life in prison.
During closing arguments, Prosecutor Kaylynn Williford described Yates as a woman who was overwhelmed, failing at home-schooling and feeling hopeless and helpless.
Williford brought out the pajamas that the children died in. She also displayed the crime scene photos showing four of the children laid out on a bed and 7-year-old Noah still floating face down in the bathtub.
"Is that the act of a loving mother? Were there words of comfort? Were there prayers? They didn't want to die," Williford said. "The legacy of this case should be that you will hold her accountable for the deaths of these children."
The children's father, Rusty Yates, walked out of the courtroom as Williford described Noah's intense struggle in the water and showed a close-up photo of his face after he was removed from the tub. Rusty Yates, who has said he does not want Andrea to be convicted, divorced her last year and remarried in March.
Andrea Yates started to cry after those photos were shown, but at other times looked down at the defense table without showing emotion.
Yates' attorneys said she meets the state's definition of insanity: that a severe mental illness prevents someone who is committing a crime from knowing it is wrong.
Defense attorney George Parnham said Yates suffered from severe postpartum psychosis. He said Yates thought she was a bad mother and that Satan was inside her, and that she had to kill the children to save them from hell. He said logic cannot be applied to a psychotic mind.
"It leaves intact the natural instincts of motherhood. You love. You nurture. You want to make certain that your child is safe from dangers. Every mother wants that," Parnham said. "But the danger that the mother perceives is twisted, and mom sees the danger where there is no danger."