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Yates found guilty of murdering her children

Yates, with attorneys in court Tuesday, as she listens to the verdict being read.  

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- A Texas jury found Andrea Yates guilty of capital murder Tuesday, rejecting her claim that she was insane when she drowned her five children in a bathtub last summer.

Yates, 37, met the verdict stoically, nodding, with the twitching of a jaw muscle her only sign of emotion. Her husband Russell, who steadfastly supported his wife throughout the trial, sat in the courtroom after the verdict with his head in his hands.

The court will reconvene Thursday to begin the trial's penalty phase where she faces the death penalty or life in prison. (What the jury could decide)

"I think mental illness is still obviously not understood, not appreciated and I hope that we will be able to save her life," said defense attorney Hugh Parnham.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer discusses the Andrea Yates murder trial with two former federal prosecutors and a defense attorney (March 12)

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CNN's Ed Lavandera reports on the reaction of Andrea Yates' lawyers to the verdict in her murder trial (March 12)

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Andrea Yates verdict reaction 
Life or death decision next for Yates jury 
In-depth: The Case of Andrea Yates 

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After more than three weeks of testimony, including complex and often conflicting statements from prosecution and defense psychiatrists, the verdict from the jury of eight women and four men came quickly, after three hours and 40 minutes of deliberation.

Yates was found guilty of two counts of capital murder for the deaths last summer of Noah, 7, John, 5, and Mary, 6 months. One of the counts covers the two eldest children. She was not on trial for the drownings of Luke, 3, and Paul, 2.

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.

Under Texas law, if jurors believed Yates knew right from wrong at the time of the killings, they could not have found her legally insane.

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

"This is a crime of horrific proportions. This is a crime where she made a choice, knowing it was a sin, she had to conceal this act because others would stop her from doing it," prosecutor Kaylynn Williford said in her closing argument.

"It was wrong in the eyes of God and it was wrong in the eyes of the law."

Prosecutors also suggested that Yates might have killed the children to get back at her husband.

"I think anyone who has a mental illness [and] who watched that should be offended," Russell Yates said after the closing arguments.

Andrea Yates, who was heavily medicated with a cocktail of antipsychotic drugs during the trial, had attempted suicide twice and was hospitalized several times before she drowned the children.

She confessed to killing the children but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

"If this woman doesn't meet the test of insanity in this state, then nobody does," Parnham told the jury. "We might as well wipe it from the books."

Another Yates attorney, Wendell Odom, argued that a number of the medical experts who testified Yates was the sickest patient they had ever seen, saying she suffered from schizophrenia, depression and other mental conditions.

Russell & Dora Yates
Russell Yates is comforted by his mother Dora after hearing the verdict.  

Prosecutors played video and audio tapes in which Yates confessed to the killings and said what she did was wrong.

Williford described the steps Yates took in preparing to drown the children and said it took about three minutes for Paul to lose consciousness.

"I would ask that you take at least three minutes of silence, and sit there in silence and realize, realize how long it takes for a child to lose voluntary control of their body," she said.

Yates' attorneys asked for a mistrial Tuesday after prosecutor Joseph Owmby told jurors "there was no question" Yates acted knowingly and intentionally when she drowned her five children.

Odom argued a new trial should be granted because Owmby inappropriately defined the charges.

The prosecution has not charged Yates in the deaths of two children, preserving its right to charge her later. Legal analysts have speculated whether such a move might constitute double jeopardy -- trying a person twice for the same crime -- which is unconstitutional.




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