Yates Family Points Fingers

Andrea Yates faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted in the drownings of 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John and 6-month-old Mary. Charges later could be filed in the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2. 020312 AP / CBS

Russell Yates says he'll sue the psychiatrist who took his wife off her medicine, while Andrea's relatives say he was to blame for her drowning their five young children last June.

Meanwhile, a judge formally sentenced the Houston woman to life in prison in the drownings of her five children.

Yates, clad in an orange Harris County jumpsuit instead of the civilian clothes she wore during her four-week trial, was fingerprinted in the courtroom. She looked into the gallery, but her only close supporters were jail psychiatrists Melissa Ferguson and Debbie Osterman.

"Good luck to you, Mrs. Yates," state District Judge Belinda Hill said as she dismissed the 37-year-old homemaker, who will be eligible for parole in 2041. When Yates arrives in the Texas prison system, she will join 69 other women serving time for killing one or more of their children.

Yates' attorneys already have confirmed that she will appeal the sentence, reports CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.

One of the stronger appellate issues will be the reliance at trial, by the prosecution's chief expert witness, of testimony from Yates herself during a competency hearing last September.

In order to encourage defendants to testify during those competency hearings, Texas law forbids the subsequent use of that testimony at trial as a violation of and defendant's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In an interview on the CBS Early Show, Yates says Dr. Mohammad Saeed, Andrea's former psychiatrist, decided two weeks before she killed her children to gradually take her off her medication because he thought it was hindering her progress. Saeed has said he saw no evidence of psychosis at the time, and he didn't see her again until June 18. The drownings were on June 20.

"I know the care we struggled to get from this doctor, I know the biochemical nature of her disease, I know all she needed was the right medication," Russell Yates said.

Yates said he knew Andrea's problem was worsening, telling Saeed, "'Andrea's declining, she's falling apart before my eyes, do something.' And he didn't."

In another broadcast interview Monday morning, Andrea Yates' family accused her husband of not doing enough to address her mental illness in the days before she drowned their five children.

Brian Kennedy, a brother of the 37-year-old Houston homemaker convicted of capital murder in the deaths of three of the children, called Yates' husband, Russell Yates, an "unemotional" husband inattentive to his sister's needs.

Andrea Yates' mother, Karin Kennedy, said her son-in-law told her after the birth of their fourth child that he had never changed a diaper.

"I think that any man and woman whose spouse was that severely down, confused, that sick, that I would do whatever it would take to make sure my other half would get the help that was necessary," Brian Kennedy said.

"They understand...an abusive, controlling husband or something like that. 'Oh, it must have been that way. I've seen that before.' It's something they understand," Russell Yates said in the CBS interview.

The doctor was expecting this sort of reaction from Russell Yates, says CBSNews.com's Cohen. His lawyer, in fact, was sitting in the courtroom during much of the expert testimony in the Andrea Yates' trial in order to get a head start on what some of the allegations would be against Saeed and what other doctors involved in Andrea Yates' treatment were saying about those allegations.

Russell Yates will accuse the doctor of negligently treating his wife, predicts Cohen. "Remember, the doctor saw her two days before the killings last June and didn't put her back on anti-psychotic medicine even though most of the experts at trial agreed that she was very, very ill at the time.

The doctor will no doubt accuse Russell of interfering with his treatment of Andrea.
  • Francie Grace

Comments