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Closing arguments set Tuesday in Yates trial

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Andrea Yates  


HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Closing arguments are set for Tuesday in the trial of a Texas woman who claims she was legally insane when she drowned her five children last year.

The defense rested Monday after calling rebuttal witnesses. The prosecution rested over the weekend.

Defense attorneys introduced more psychiatric testimony Monday in an attempt to show that Andrea Yates did not know right from wrong at the time she killed her five children June 20, 2001.

Under Texas law, if jurors believe 37-year-old Houston woman knew right from wrong as she drowned her children one after another in the family bathtub, they cannot find her legally insane.

Dr. Lucy Puryear, a psychiatrist from the Baylor College of Medicine and an expert in women's mental health issues, testified Yates told her that as she was drowning her children she believed she was doing the right thing.

The defense also introduced excerpts from an interview with Yates conducted by a prosecution psychiatric expert, Dr. Park Dietz, in which Dietz asked her if she thought she was doing the right thing as she drowned the children. She answered, "Yes."

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Dietz then asked her when she figured out that what she had done was wrong. "When I called police," she said.

Yates is charged with 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.

The charges are based on provisions in Texas statutes. One charge covers the intentional deaths of two people in the same event or scheme; the other covers the death of a child under 6.

The prosecution does not contest that Yates suffered from a severe mental disease, but contends she knew killing her children was wrong and that the acts were premeditated.

The defense admits Yates killed her children, but argues she was insane. To prove insanity, her attorneys must show by a greater weight of evidence that Yates was too mentally deranged to know her actions were wrong. In Texas, a person is presumed sane.

Deputy: Defendant knew she was wrong

In testimony over the weekend, a sheriff's deputy said he heard Andrea Yates tell a jail psychiatrist that she knew she was wrong when she drowned the children.

According to the deputy, Yates told the doctor, "'I didn't mean to hurt them. I'm so stupid. I'm such a monster.'"

Deputy Michael Stephens
Stephens testified he heard Yates tell the psychiatrist, "'I knew what I did was wrong.'"  

Deputy Michael Stephens of the Harris County Sheriff's Department testified Saturday he overheard Dr. Melissa Ferguson's conversation with Yates the day after the killings.

Ferguson testified for the defense earlier in the trial that Yates was "one of the sickest patients" she had ever seen and exhibited extreme signs of paranoia and delusions. Yates could not have known right from wrong, Ferguson testified.

Defense lawyers questioned the deputy's testimony from the outset, challenging his accuracy and motive because he did not write down his recollections until after he was contacted by prosecutors on February 13.

Defense attorneys grilled Stephens about the eight-month lapse between the interview and the five pages of notes he wrote earlier this month. They also challenged Stephens about his testimony regarding Yates' comments about her husband, Russell Yates.

According to Stephens, Yates told Ferguson she killed Mary because "'Russell didn't want another girl. He wanted another boy, for a basketball team.'"

-- CNN Correspondent Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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