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Texas Mother Competency Motion Filed

July 04, 2001|From Reuters

HOUSTON — Attorneys for a Texas mother who admitted drowning her five children formally indicated Tuesday they would mount an insanity defense, filing a motion challenging their client's mental fitness to stand trial.

Attorneys George Parnham and Wendell Odom, in a motion filed an hour before court offices closed for the Fourth of July holiday, asked a Texas judge to hold a hearing to determine if Andrea Yates is mentally competent to stand trial. Their motion came hours after Yates' medical records were released to them.

The Houston mother drowned her five children, aged 6 months to 7 years, on June 20, calling police and her husband moments later to admit what she had done.

Her husband, NASA computer engineer Russell Yates, publicly supports his wife and has blamed her action on a rabid form of postpartum depression that started after the birth of their fourth child and returned in much worse form after the fifth.

The 37-year-old former nurse and housewife has been locked up in the psychiatric wing of the Harris County Jail since the killings, facing a charge of capital murder and a possible death sentence.

All the while, her attorneys say, Yates has been in a psychotic state that prevents her from aiding her own defense, communicating fully with her lawyers and understanding the gravity of her situation.

"Medical personnel who have seen the defendant have informed me that Mrs. Yates is presently in a psychotic state and as such would not be competent presently to stand trial," Odom wrote in court papers.

Odom also wrote that Yates' previous history of mental illness, including two hospitalizations, previous diagnoses of depression and postpartum psychosis and at least two suicide attempts, was proof enough that she deserved a hearing.

"It is my firm belief that the defendant, with her history of mental illness and the bizarre nature of the offense with which she is charged has already raised the issue of incompetency for purposes of a hearing," Odom wrote.

State District Judge Belinda Hill can either reject the motion or schedule a hearing. Prosecutors have previously stated that Yates does not meet the Texas legal standard for insanity.

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