Yates Husband: Spare Her New Trial

Don't retry Andrea Yates.

The plea comes from her husband, Rusty Yates.

Andrea's conviction for drowning their children in a bathtub was overturned Thursday because an appeals court concluded an expert witness for the prosecution gave erroneous testimony that suggested the Texas mother got the idea from an episode of the crime drama "Law & Order."

Dr. Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist who consulted for "Law & Order," testified that shortly before Yates' crime occurred, an episode ran about a woman who drowned her children and was found innocent by reason of insanity.

But, as Rusty pointed out to The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, there was no such episode. "I wasn't actually in the courtroom when he gave the testimony," Rusty says. "I had heard about it and my initial thought was, you know, I watched the show with Andrea and I had never seen such a show. And, of course, shortly thereafter, we learned there never was such a show."

A three-judge panel of the First Texas Court of Appeals said, "We conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that Dr. Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury."

Rusty, who filed for divorce last summer, told Syler Friday that his wife needs treatment for her mental illness, not prison.

"I hope they drop the charges against her and that she can go to a hospital and stay there long enough to, you know, till the doctors can find the right combinations of medicines to make her, you know, well and safe," he told Syler. "And that she can receive counseling. Obviously, she's in a worse place now than she was, really, at the time of the tragedy, because she has so much trauma behind her, and it's going to take a long time to work through that. I think on the order of, you know, best case, two or three years."

One of Andrea's attorneys, George Parnham, told co-anchor Hannah Storm Friday that he's working on a "creative solution" for Andrea's future that "answers both the concerns that the public might have, as well as my concern and the concern of the mental health experts for the well-being, both physical and mental, of my client."

He adds that Andrea is best off staying right where she is, for now: "Moving her from the facility that she is basically called home for the last few years, into a new environment with new doctors, with new personnel, with new inmates, for instance, that she has to develop a relationship with would simply be too traumatic for her. I want to keep her where she is until this process plays out."

Parnham says he spoke with Andrea by phone yesterday and, "She had lots of questions. She sounded good. At least telephonically."

Rusty says he was "very pleasantly surprised" when he heard Thursday's news, and says his ongoing support of Andrea is "primarily because I understand what a great person Andrea is, how much she loved our children. And that she would never have harmed our children, had she not been mentally ill.

"In many respects, I see Andrea as a victim in all of this, not as, you know, a perpetrator, although she did commit this horrible act. She never would have done so, had she not been ill."

Still, Rusty filed for divorce in July "primarily, you know, because of how much she's hurt me," he said to Syler. "I mean, we're apart, that's a factor, but, really, I think even though I can forgive her, you know, there are consequences, really, for our marriage, for what she's done and, you know, I really can't get past the pain, you know, that she's caused me there."

Rusty is no fan of the treatment of mentally ill patients in the United States. He says Americans don't have an accurate concept of mental illness, which becomes "very evident by the fact that many people have come out -- I mean, there have been many supporters, people who have experienced mental illness or who have some understanding. (But) many people have been against Andrea because of what she's done without understanding mental illness.

"If you look at other countries, you know, in terms of the way we treat women in our legal system, you know, we're really barbaric compared to many other countries. In many other countries, the woman that did something like what Andrea has done would just be sent to a hospital immediately and never be tried."
  • Brian Dakss

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