HOUSTON – A man whose wife is accused of drowning their five children in a bathtub doesn't believe he violated a gag order by speaking about her medical condition on national television.
Russell Yates spoke in detail about his wife Andrea Yates' severe depression during an interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night on CBS.
He told the Houston Chronicle in Monday's editions that he had a legal opinion that cleared the way for him to publicly speak about his children and treatment of his wife in the months before the children were killed.
"I respect the court's order, and I tried to follow it," Yates said. "Otherwise, I would have said more."
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal also appeared on the show and discussed why he thought seeking the death penalty is appropriate for Andrea Yates.
Both Yates and Rosenthal could face up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine for contempt of court by granting the interviews.
State District Judge Belinda Hill imposed the gag order on June 26, forbidding witnesses from talking to the media.
Andrea Yates is charged with capital murder in the June 20 deaths of three of the five children. Yates has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 7. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.
On the program, Russell Yates said he blames doctors and hospitals for not properly treating his wife.
"I don't blame her a bit," Yates said. "If she received the medical treatment that she deserved, then the kids would be alive and well. And Andrea would be well on her way to recovery."
Andrea Yates was treated off and on for depression and two suicide attempts after the birth of her fourth child. After the birth of their fifth child, her condition seemed to worsen, her husband said.
She was last admitted to the Devereux Texas Treatment Network in May after she filled up the bathtub but refused to tell anyone why.
She was discharged, Russell Yates said, even though her medical chart indicated she still exhibited paranoid thought patterns and impaired judgment.
"I mean there's not, there's absolutely no reason she should have been let out of that hospital," Yates said on the program. "It was just incomprehensible."
He said he had hoped his wife would be readmitted for treatment during her last visit with Dr. Mohammad Saeed.
"I didn't actually come out and say it. But yeah, we were desperate. She was so sick. And I was at my wits' end," Yates said. He said Saeed ended the meeting "by giving her a pep talk," telling her to "think positive thoughts, not negative thoughts."
Saeed declined to be interviewed for the program, but he wrote in her records that he feared she was developing dangerous side effects from the medication and, he wrote, she denied having psychotic symptoms.
On Friday, a recording of Andrea Yates' 911 call was placed in her court file. Despite questioning by a Houston Police Department dispatcher, Yates would not say why she wanted police to come to her home.
"Uh, I just need them to come," Yates answered in a flat voice when she was asked about her problem.