Andrea Yates Insanity Defense

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In June of 2001, the entire nation was deeply disturbed by the horrific acts committed by a suburban Texas housewife, and mother of five. Andrea Yates had drowned all five of her young children in the bathtub of their home. Yates called the authorities and her husband Rusty Yates to the home, where she confessed to killing her children. According to Faith McLellan of the Lancet Medical Journal, Andrea Yates’s bizarre reasoning behind this horrific act was because she believed to have been marked by Satan, and that in order to save her children from hell she needed to take their lives (McLellan, 2006). Yates pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on the basis of mental defect due to postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. The Texas …show more content…

Andrea showed signs of severe mental illness before, during, and after the crime had taken place. It was clear that Andrea’s judgment had been impaired more often than not. The extent of Andrea Yates’s mental health issues were shown through many documented psychotic episodes of hallucinations, delusions, attempted suicides, eccentric behaviors, and homicidal ideations. Over the course of the births of her five children, Andrea went through many treatments, psychiatric hospitalizations, and antipsychotic drug therapies. According to Deborah Denno, Founding Director of the Neuroscience and Law Center, Andrea’s struggle with postpartum began to appear following the birth of her first child, in which she experienced hallucinations of stabbing someone with a knife (Denno, 2003). After the birth of her fourth child, Andrea attempted suicide twice, once by overdose, and the second by holding a knife to her own throat (McLellan, 2006). Yates had also suffered from delusions in which she believed that cameras had been placed in her home in order to monitor the quality of her mothering, and that her defective parenting would cause all of her children to burn in hell (Resnick, 2007). Yates held the belief that she had failed her children in the eyes of god, and became fixated on biblical scripture. Despite medical advice to not have any more children in order to prevent postpartum relapse, Andrea and Rusty continued to grow their family. In order to become pregnant, Andrea discontinued her use of antipsychotic medication. The discontinuation of medication prompted more psychotic episodes, which resulted in further hospitalization. In many instances, when Andrea was being treated in mental health facilities, doctors would often release her before the end of her treatment due to insurance no longer covering her stay. Any progress that was being made under psychiatric care was cut short, and as a

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