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Yates not guilty by reason of insanity

Ex-husband: 'She was psychotic' when she drowned their children

Andrea Yates reacts Wednesday at hearing the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.


Andrea Yates
Judiciary (system of justice)

(CNN) -- A jury on Wednesday found Andrea Yates not guilty by reason of insanity of drowning her five children in a bathtub five years ago.

The verdict, reached after nearly 13 hours of deliberation over three days in Houston, means Yates will be committed to a state mental facility in Texas until she is deemed to be no longer a threat.

Yates showed no immediate response as the verdict was read and the jurors polled individually. (Watch Yates' wide-eyed reaction -- 4:15)

The 42-year-old defendant then hugged one of her attorneys, George Parnham, who had argued she suffered from postpartum psychosis at the time of the drownings on June 20, 2001.

Her former husband and father of the victims, Russell Yates, who has since remarried, exclaimed, "Oh, wow!" and became teary, Court TV reported.

"We're happy," Russell Yates told reporters outside the courthouse. "To me, this is really about Andrea's quality of life for the balance of her life. Is she going to spend her time in a prison cell with barely adequate medical treatment and no interaction with other people and family members or is she going to spend time in a hospital and get good medical treatment and have hope of a possibly somewhat normal life later?"

Andrea Yates' mental illness predated the killings. She had been on anti-psychotic medication and attempted suicide before killing Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, 6 months.

In 2002 a jury rejected Yates' insanity defense and sentenced her to life in prison for the deaths of three of the five children.

But a state appeals court overturned the convictions because an expert witness for the state, a psychiatrist, testified incorrectly that the television series "Law and Order" had shown an episode about a woman suffering from postpartum depression who drowned her children.

Russell Yates said the prosecution failed to understand "that Andrea was ordinarily a loving mother who fell to this disease and did an unthinkable act."

He added, "Yes, Andrea took the lives of our children. That's the truth. But also, yes, she was insane. Yes, she was psychotic on that day. That's the whole truth."

He said the state "never attempted to get to the whole truth."

He said he was proud of the jury for reaching its finding in Harris County, Texas -- "the death-penalty capital of the world."

Russell Yates rejected criticism that he should have known his wife was a danger to their children.

"We took her to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist failed us," he said.

Russell Yates said he was planning to visit his ex-wife Wednesday night. He said he and Andrea Yates are "good friends" and often reminisce together about their children.

"They were our life, they were important to us," he said.

"She needs help," one juror told reporters. "I think she will probably need treatment for the rest of her life."

Yates' attorney Wendell Odom expressed a similar view: "It's this simple: this lady never did anything wrong in her own life. She's mentally ill. She wakes up one morning, she drowns her five kids. Come on, we all know she's insane. It's a shame it took this long to finally get the right verdict."

But Harris County Assistant District Attorney Joe Owmby told reporters he was disappointed by the verdict.

"Yates was not insane when she killed her children," he said. "She knew it was a sin, knew it was legally wrong and knew society would disapprove of her actions."

Still, he said, he would not recommend that the district attorney bring further charges related to the drownings.

"The charges we filed were intended to conclude this case one way or another," Owmby said.

He said the heavy media coverage, including a series of editorial opinions in the local paper, "must have had an effect, in a general way, on the jury."

He said he was not accusing the jurors of not following instructions, "But they're human beings, and they have been living with this for the past five years."

In 30 days a hearing will be held to determine whether Yates represents a danger to herself or others and whether she will comply with a treatment plan.

Every year thereafter, a hearing before a judge or a jury will be held to decide whether she should be released into the community.

"The state is not going to be watching Andrea Yates," Owmby said. "This thing about her now being under supervision for the rest of her life is rather misleading."

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