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Yates: Kids did poorly in school and had to die

Defense rests after its last witness testifies

Andrea Yates  

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Five weeks after drowning her children, Andrea Yates told a psychiatrist she carried out the act because they "were not progressing the right way in school," according to a videotape of the interview played in court Wednesday.

Yates, 37, is being tried on two counts of capital murder, one covering the deaths of Noah, 7, and John, 5, and the other covering the death of Mary, 6 months. She is not on trial for the drownings of Luke, 3, and Paul, 2.

Yates has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and her attorneys must prove she did not know right from wrong for the insanity defense to be successful.

On Wednesday, jurors watched a taped interview, conducted five weeks after the June 20 killings, in which Yates recalled her reasoning behind the deaths.

The defense also called its final witness in Yates' capital murder trial -- the person who conducted the tape. Dr. Lucy Puryear, a psychiatrist who specializes in women's mental health, interviewed Yates for the first time on tape on July 27.

In the video, Yates appeared dissheveled, and often took 40 to 50 seconds before answering the doctor's questions.

Attorneys grilled the psychiatrist who last saw Andrea Yates before she killed her five children. CNN's David Mattingly reports (March 5)

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"When did you get the idea of drowning the children?" Puryear asked in the video.

"The day before," Yates responded.

"Why did you do it?" Puryear asked.

"They were not progressing the right way in school, and they had a problem with their manners, their social manners," Yates said of her children, whom she was homeschooling.

Moments later, Yates mentioned Satan. "I I thought he was sending messages," she said in response to Puryear's inquiries.

"Did you worry if they grew up they might not go to heaven?" Puryear asked.

"Yeah," she replied.

A second videotaped interview, recorded about two weeks before the trial started and also shown in court Wednesday, depicted a totally different Yates -- her hair was brushed, she smiled and showed other emotions.

"The psychosis seems to have left me," she told Puryear in that tape.

On the stand, Puryear concluded that when Yates drowned the children in a household bathtub, she "was incapable of knowing what she did on June 20 was wrong. She thought it was right."

Under cross-examination, prosecutors questioned the psychiatrist about a conclusion she reached June 26 -- before she had even interviewed Yates -- that Yates suffered from psychosis.

Puryear said that was a "reasonable guess" she drew from watching television. She reiterated her belief that Yates did not know "what she did was illegal," even after prosecutors pointed out statements Yates made to police on the day of the drownings that she wanted to be punished by the justice system.

The defense rested after the testimony. The prosecution will begin presenting rebuttal witnesses Thursday.




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