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Jewish World Review March 1, 2002 / 16 Adar, 5762

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Mary, Luke, Paul, John and Noah -- MAYBE Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who admitted to drowning her five children, was legally insane when she killed those poor defenseless children. Maybe she wasn't. That's for the jury to decide.

I trust a jury far more than Yates' informal defense team of celebrities and alleged feminists, who so quickly blamed postpartum depression for the murders. When men kill, groups such as the National Organization for Women proclaim the on-target slogan, "There's no excuse for domestic violence."

But now there is an excuse for domestic violence -- if the killer is a woman. Thus NOW Vice President Terry O'Neill told the Washington Post, Yates' "psychosis is so obvious and her mental illness is so heart-wrenching that clearly she's entitled to treatment and not punishment."

I trust a jury more than I trust celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell, who has confessed to feeling "overwhelming empathy" for Andrea Yates.

How about empathy for Mary, 6 months, Luke, 2, Paul, 3, John, 5, and Noah, 7?

Or do these children get too little sympathy because they were Yates' children -- which made them chattel -- instead of someone else's kids?

The worst of it is that, in pushing for no trial or an acquittal based on Yates' plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the Treatment Chorus has advocated an outcome that could have Yates out on the streets after an evaluation period and free to conceive more children. (After all, her family has said that Yates is now taking the right medication, and hence is stable.)

I trust a jury far more than I trust husband Russell Yates. He lived in happy oblivion even though, his wife has said, she heard Satan's voice telling her to stab their eldest son Noah shortly after his birth. He was able to overlook his wife's institutionalization after their fourth child Luke was born. He apparently was unfazed by her two suicide attempts; he insisted on having more children when his wife clearly was stressed out by each family addition.

Then he blames doctors for taking his wife off her medication.

It's a shame that there's no law that can give Russell Yates his due.

It's too bad that Andrea Yates, who could face the death penalty, did not recognize her responsibility for her actions and work out a plea bargain. These were very nasty murders. When Yates killed her son Noah, she said, she did so by calling the 7-year-old into the bathroom where he could see his dead baby sister. "What happened to Mary?" the boy asked.

Yates didn't answer, she told police. She grabbed Noah and put him in the tub. The poor boy struggled and even managed to run out of the bathroom but, she told police, "I got him."

A psychiatrist testified that Yates told her she killed the children because "I deserve to be punished." And now that the kids are dead, her lawyers are arguing that she doesn't deserve to be punished.

I don't envy jurors in this case. On the one hand, psychiatrists have testified that Yates was criminally insane. Their diagnoses aren't the same. A new doctor says that she is schizophrenic. Still, one doctor says Yates was one of the five sickest patients she had ever seen. What's more, unlike child- killer Susan Smith, Andrea Yates never tried to blame the murders on someone else.

But as Rob Kepple of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, noted, "The insanity is a legal standard. it's a standard where we decide if we're going to hold them culpable. It's not a medical standard at all."

Ken Anderson, a Texas judge serving in another county, asked, "What if (Russell Yates) was the one who done it?" The answer: When a man kills his children, there's no pity -- at least not today. But if Americans choose to sympathize and excuse a woman who kills her children, the day cannot be far off when men get a pass, too.

Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate