Magazine article Newsweek

Signs of a Family Feud: The Trial of Andrea Yates Tests the Insanity Defense as Relatives Try to Cope with an 'Unspeakable' Crime

Magazine article Newsweek

Signs of a Family Feud: The Trial of Andrea Yates Tests the Insanity Defense as Relatives Try to Cope with an 'Unspeakable' Crime

Article excerpt

Byline: Anne Belli Gesalman

In the Houston courtroom where Andrea Yates is on trial for her life, Rusty Yates and his mother, Dora, sit in one row while Jutta and Brian Kennedy, Andrea's mother and brother, sit in a row of their own. Publicly, at least, the two families are cordial--Rusty celebrated Thanksgiving with the Kennedys--but the seating arrangements tell a different story. Yates has admitted drowning her five children last June 20, a crime so horrendous even her husband described it as "unthinkable." But she had a history of postpartum depression that seemed to grow deeper over time. Now, according to Andrew Kennedy, Andrea's family thinks Rusty Yates could have done more to help her through her emotional torment. "I feel Rusty did the best he could," Andrew Kennedy says. "But I am a very forgiving person. They've got some anger issues. They're having a hard time getting past this."

Facing the death penalty, Yates has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. There is little doubt she knew what she was doing when she killed her children. But there is equally little question that she was suffering from severe emotional distress--not just postpartum depression, but postpartum psychosis as well. Medical records show Yates had been hospitalized four times since 1999, that she had attempted suicide twice and that her doctor for a time had prescribed Haldol, a powerful drug often used to control hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms. On June 20, her lawyers say, Yates suffered a psychotic break that led to her terrible acts. …

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