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Yates Found Guilty by Texas Jury - 2002-03-13

A jury in the state of Texas returns to the courtroom Wednesday to begin deciding how to punish a woman convicted Tuesday of killing her five children. Andrea Yates could receive the death penalty or life in prison for drowning her children.

The eight women and four men on the Yates jury deliberated a little less than four hours in Houston, Texas, Tuesday, before delivering their verdict to Judge Belinda Hill.

The State of Texas vs. Andrea Yates

We, the jury, find the defendant, Andrea Yates, guilty of capital murder as charged in the indictment.

Last year, Yates called her five children into the bathroom of the family home one at a time and drowned them. When the last child was dead, Yates called police to tell them what she had done.

At her trial, experts testified that Yates had been mentally ill for at least two years before the murders. They said she had twice tried to kill herself and had been treated in a mental hospital.

Yates' attorney Wendell Odom had hoped jurors would find her guilty but mentally ill, or not guilty by reason of insanity. "Well, I am not happy," he said. But, that is the verdict and now we go to the next stage.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Yates was mentally ill, but sought a guilty verdict on the grounds that she knew right from wrong, which is the standard for legal sanity in Texas. Prosecutors cited Yates' phone call to police as proof she knew what she was doing was wrong.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutor Kaylynn Williford said Yates made a decision last June to kill her children. "She had a plan," Ms. Williford said, "and it was to take these children's' lives. Not to take her own life, she did not want to do that."

Yates' attorneys said she was overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising five children and believed she was a bad mother.

On Wednesday morning, jurors begin hearing testimony in the penalty phase of the trial. Then they will deliberate whether Yates should be put to death or be given a sentence of life in prison.