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“Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” (Part Deux)

by northstar at 09:54 AM on March 13, 2002

In one of my very first posts, I quoted the immortal Mark Slackmeyer: “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” Well, since then, things have changed a bit, and I’m going to be man enough to admit that I may perhaps have been guilty of a lack of compassion. Perhaps.

For those of you who may have been trapped in a cave in eastern Afghanistan, Andrea Yates was found guilty of capital murder yesterday. Essentially, the jury said that Yates was aware that what she was doing was wrong, and as such did not meet the (archaic and outdated) legal definition of insanity.

It should go without saying that there are no winners in this case. The Texas standards for insanity have been exposed as woefully inadequate, and there is currently no way that the Texas legal system can adequately address a case of this magnitude. The challenge for the next session of the Texas legislature will be to bring the legal definition of insanity into line with the current medical definition. Of course, the legislature here has never been known for going where angels fear to tread.

In the meantime, my position has softened somewhat. I no longer believe that this was a black & white case of Andrea Yates' obvious guilt. Does she still deserve the death penalty? I am less certain of that now than I was at the trial's outset, but I would still certainly hold the death penalty as an option. Her fate will be determined during the sentencing phase of the trial, which begins tomorrow.

My change of heart comes after realizing that Mrs. Yates’ state of mind at the time of the murders was clearly not rational. Does her lack of rationality adequately explain her actions? I suppose that depends on your point of view. In the final analysis, though, I believe that killing Yates will not bring back her children, and will not accomplish anything except to rob Russell Yates of his wife. By the same token, Andrea Yates should never again walk the earth as a free woman.

I suppose the truly humane thing to do under the circumstances would be for Yates to receive treatment and spend the rest of her life in the Texas correctional system. Will one more death do anything except give a few devoid-of-compassion Conservatives a warm and fuzzy feeling? Probably not. It may be hard to talk about compassion when you remember that she murdered her five children, but I now believe it is both appropriate and the right thing to do.

comments (3)

I believe that Mr. Yates should be, in part, held accountable for the deaths of his children. How much more obvious could Mrs. Yates have made it that she needed help? What did her husband do? He kept siring offspring with this obviously disturbed woman! Yet now he tries to protray himself as the knight in shining armor, come to rescue his mentally ill fair maiden, to stand by her through thick and thin? If he would have put all the effort toward helping his wife that he now exerts to protect and create his benevolent image for the media, then maybe this tragedy could have been avoided. He is to blame for ignoring his wife's behavior and obvious mental sickness, and for further burdening her with MORE children.

by JC at March 13, 2002 3:04 PM

I don't know. Knowing someone is crazy is one thing, knowing that they'll meticulously drown each of their five children is a completly other thing. The Yates' did go for help, it, obviously, didn't work.

by mg at March 13, 2002 3:27 PM

Personally I don't think that very many of the extreme religious (ugh man work, women have babies "as many as God will allow") are totally rational in the first place. And what about the "innocent" hubby... why isn't he being charged at least 6 counts (5 kids and basically ignoring wifeys psychological needs) of depraved indifference? One thing I do agree with you is, there are truely no winners... Hubby certainly won't change, he can't even put on a tie for his wife's verdict hearing... blue jeans and a plaid short sleeve shirt - there's respect for his wife (NOT!) (he'll probably get another wife and start the morbid cycle all over again), and wife spends the rest of her life (if she gets one) in a 14'X6' room. I'm glad I don't have to decide what to do with her.

by val at March 13, 2002 4:12 PM

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