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Yates sentenced to life in prison

Andrea Yates, center, looks at attorney Wendell Odom Friday as she learns of the life in prison sentence  

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Andrea Yates was formally sentenced Monday to life in prison for the drowning deaths of three of her five children.

Yates will be eligible for parole in 40 years.

Her husband, Russell Yates, and members of her family were not in court for the proceedings.

Yates, 37, was convicted last week on two counts of murder for the drownings of her 6-month-old daughter Mary, and her sons Noah, 7, and John, 5. The charges did not cover the deaths of her two other sons, Paul, 3, and Luke, 2.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for 35 minutes Friday before recommending the life sentence. She could have been sentenced to death.

After the sentencing, defense attorney Wendell Odom said an appeal would be filed.

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Yates admitted drowning the children, but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Attorney George Parnham said he will try to keep Yates at the Harris County Jail, where she has been receiving treatment, for as long as possible. He said he recommended that when she is transferred, she be sent to a facility in Lubbock, Texas, that he said is best equipped for treating her mental illness.

He said if Yates had been found not guilty by reason of insanity, she probably would have been "locked away" for the rest of her life. So the guilty verdict may have been the best possible outcome, since she will still get mental health treatment.

"This type of verdict has generated so much support, and discussion about the law, and about mental health issues. Not guilty by reasons of insanity would have never produced the type of outpouring of concern and interest on both sides, people talking stands, and that's great," Parnham said.

Prosecutor Joseph Owmby said he did not have any say over where Yates is imprisoned, but added that he "did not have a problem" with the defense recommendations.

Yates' attorneys argued that she was severely mentally ill and suffering from a psychosis when she drowned her children in the family bathtub.

Prosecutors said she was mentally ill, but still knew that her actions were wrong.

Under Texas law, defendants can be declared not guilty by reason of insanity only if it is determined they did not know right from wrong at the time of the crime.

Russell Yates, meanwhile, as well as several of Andrea Yates' relatives, appeared on several national talk shows Monday, as did several jurors in the case. Some members of Yates' family accused husband Russell Yates of not doing enough to assess the Houston woman's mental illness.

According to a report by The Associated Press, the comments came in a group interview with Houston television station KTRK that was also aired on ABC's "Good Morning, America," on Monday.

Brian Kennedy, a brother of Andrea Yates, called Russell Yates an "unemotional" husband inattentive to his sister's needs.

Andrea Yates' mother, Jutta Karin Kennedy, said her son-in-law told her after the birth of their fourth child that he had never changed a diaper.

Asked about criticism of his role, Russell Yates told NBC's "Today" show Monday that some people "don't understand the biochemical nature of Andrea's illness ... so they'll say there must have been something else going on in that household, or there must have been this or that and it's all false," according to the AP report.

Russell Yates told "The Early Show" that "I think I have to" sue those responsible for her medical care, according to the AP. He contends that she was wrongly taken off antipsychotic medication before the killings despite lapsing into severe mental illness following the births of her last two children.

"She was never diagnosed, she was never treated and they didn't protect our family," he said.

Russell Yates accused the court system of victimizing his wife after the medical community had mistreated her by not recognizing how sick she was and not giving her the right treatment.




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