Jewish World Review March 1, 2002 / 16 Adar, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
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
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
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
Then he blames doctors for taking his wife off her
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,
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate