HOUSTON – The defense rested its case Thursday in Andrea Yates' second murder trial in the bathtub drowning deaths of her children.
State District Judge Belinda Hill set closing arguments for Monday, and prosecutor Kaylynn Williford said jurors will be sequestered during deliberations.
Yates, 42, is being retried because an appeals court overturned her 2002 capital murder conviction on the grounds that some erroneous testimony may have influenced jurors. Yates, charged in three of her five children's 2001 deaths, has again pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.
If convicted, she will be sentenced to life in prison. If found not guilty by reason of insanity, she will be committed to a state mental hospital, with periodic hearings to determine whether she should be released — although jurors are not allowed to know that.
Defense attorneys first asked Hill to allow jurors to know what would happen to Yates after either verdict, hoping jurors would realize that an acquittal would mean Yates would be committed to a mental hospital for years, and would not be free.
When Hill rejected that request, the defense asked that the jury not be allowed to discuss during deliberations what might happen to Yates. Hill said she would consider the request.
Yates' attorneys say Yates suffered from severe postpartum psychosis when she killed 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John, 3-year-old-Paul, 2-year-old Luke and 6-month-old Mary. They say she meets Texas' definition of insanity: that a severe mental illness prevents someone who is committing a crime from knowing it is wrong.
But prosecutors say her actions belie those claims. She drowned the children during the small window of time when she would be alone with them, then called 911 and later told police she killed them because she was a bad mother and wanted to be punished.
A forensic psychiatrist testified Wednesday that Yates knew killing her children was a sin, illegal and bad in the eyes of society but believed she was saving them from hell. Dr. Phillip Resnick told jurors Yates believed she had fallen from grace and had ruined her children so much that they would grow up to be criminals, so she believed killing them was the right thing to do.
"It was a lesser sin ... considering what doing nothing would have meant," Resnick testified Wednesday for the defense in its rebuttal phase.
Under cross-examination, Resnick acknowledged that Yates had felt overwhelmed, but he said she was not worried about being exposed as a bad mother because her husband, mother-in-law and close friends already knew she was struggling.
"Her concern was the children's salvation — not how she would look," said Resnick, who first evaluated Yates about three weeks after the deaths.