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Psychiatrist Testifies to Yates’ Motives

July 19, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) _ Andrea Yates drowned her five children in their bathtub because she was overwhelmed and felt inadequate as a mother, not because of any altruistic or religious motive, a forensic psychiatrist testified Tuesday in her murder trial.

``In my professional opinion, Andrea Yates drowned her children to help herself, not to help her children,″ Dr. Michael Welner told jurors.

He said Yates had become detached from 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah and showed no remorse.

No symbols were found at the scene that would suggest a religious motive, and when Yates initially told police she killed the children, she didn’t say that she sent them to heaven or was trying to save them from hell, as she later told a jail psychiatrist.

Yates was convicted of capital murder in 2002, but the conviction was overturned by an appeals court that said some erroneous testimony may have influenced jurors. Her retrial traces much of the same ground as the original.

If convicted, Yates will be sentenced to life in prison. If the jury instead sides with her plea of innocent by reason of insanity, she could be committed to a state hospital.

Her attorneys say she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and meets Texas’ definition of insanity: that because of a severe mental illness a person does not know while committing a crime that it is wrong.

However, Welner testified Monday he found 60 examples in his examination of how Yates knew drowning the children was wrong. She filled the tub after her husband left, he said, and removed the bath mat so that the youngsters would have no traction to try and escape.

``Her behavior demonstrates self-discipline, self-control and efficiency in carrying out the drownings of her five children,″ Welner said as he testified for the prosecution in its rebuttal phase at Yates’ second murder trial.

In an excerpt of Welner’s videotaped interview with Yates played for jurors, he asked why she had been more determined on that day, June 20, 2001.

``I had made up my mind that I would to it. I just thought it had to be done,″ she said, adding that it was because of ``just the prospect of them growing up to be unrighteous.″

When Welner asked what made that day different from other days, she finally answered after a long pause: ``I had just _ I didn’t want them to go to hell.″

Under cross-examination, Welner said that Yates, who remains on anti-psychotic medication, was not faking her mental illness. He also acknowledged that some things Yates did after the drownings, such as calling 911 and going to jail willingly, could be evidence that she knew she would be punished, not necessarily that she knew what she did was wrong.

The state rested its case after Welner’s testimony.

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