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Andrea Yates asking to attend church weekly

By Ashley Hayes, CNN
updated 12:38 PM EDT, Thu March 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Yates is being treated at a Texas state hospital
  • She drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001
  • She wants to be released weekly for two hours to go to church
  • "It is simply a baby step in the right direction," her attorney says

(CNN) -- Doctors treating Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, will ask that she be allowed to leave her mental hospital for two hours each week to attend church, her attorney said Thursday.

"It is a recommendation of the doctors that she be permitted to attend, and of course she wants to," attorney George Parnham said. "It would be both beneficial and mentally therapeutic for her. She has been accepted into a congregation. It is simply a baby step in the right direction toward acclimation into a community down the road of sorts."

Yates' doctors at Kerrville State Hospital, in Kerrville, Texas, will make the request of the trial judge "in the next week or two," Parnham said.

"I am all for it, but of course it is the judge's decision and we all recognize it," he said.

Now 47, Yates "has not been seen or been a part of any portion of society for the last 11 years," Parnham said Thursday.

During her first trial in 2002, jurors heard taped interviews in which Yates said that she thought Satan was sending her messages and that she was sending her children -- Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months -- to heaven and sparing them from hell when she killed them on June 20, 2001.

Several medical experts testified that she suffered from schizophrenia, depression and other medical conditions. Parnham argued Yates was suffering from a "full-blown psychosis."

"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."

But jurors rejected her insanity defense and sentenced her to life in prison for the deaths of three of the children.

A state appeals court overturned the conviction because an expert witness for the state, a psychiatrist, testified erroneously that the television series "Law and Order" had aired an episode about a woman suffering from post-partum depression who drowned her children.

In 2006, a second jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity, meaning she was committed to a state mental facility.

Her former husband, Russell Yates, said at the time he was pleased with that verdict.

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

Yates had been on anti-psychotic medication and attempted suicide before the killings. "We took her to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist failed us," Russell Yates has said. He has since remarried.

"Mental illness is the culprit" in the deaths, Parnham told CNN affiliate KPRC this week. "There were six victims that day, and Andrea is one of them."

CNN's Carma Hassan contributed to this report.

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