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An odd dichotomy

Earlier on the news, I heard that Andrea Yates (she who drowned her five children in Texas) had been granted a new trial. I'm not going to go into that topic specifically (I happen that the screwup in that first trial was atrocious, and heads should roll over whoever vetted Dr. Dietz), but it made me think of something odd I've noticed before.

There have been cases of parents killing their children before, and regardless of the sex of the murdering parent, the reaction is the same. When it's the father, it's expressions of disgust and outrage at the monstrous father, accompanied by sympathy for the mother. But when it's the mother who kills the children, it's the same: sympathy for the poor mother who must have been driven to this monstrous act, and outrage at the father for allowing/encouraging it to happen.

It was really driven home to me this time, though, when it came out that the National Organization for Women had raised the funds for the appeal. Does NOW really want to be associated with a woman who murdered all five of her children?

It goes even deeper than that. I happen to be pro-choice on the abortion issue, as is NOW, but do they really want to leave themselves open to charges that they favor the right of women to kill their children on a whole new front?

But back to my point. It seems regardless of which parent actually kills the children, the mother is seen as sympathetic and the father as monstrous. Why is this?

Maybe I'm just not as in-touch with this issue because I don't have children of my own, and never will. But the trend seems, to me, to smack of a double standard.

And that's why I'm tossing this out -- I'd like to hear some calm, reasoned discussion of this matter. I'm asking folks to try and be civil about this -- if you want to really get heated, please do down and chime in on Paul's regularly scheduled "PC vs. Mac" wars.



Listed below are links to weblogs that reference An odd dichotomy:

» Young Pundit linked with Andrea Yates Is Still Guilty

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Comments (55)

JayT:There's a goo... (Below threshold)


There's a good novel called "Angel of Darkness" by Caleb Carr that examines this topic in great (and well-written, IMHO) depth.

We are acculturated to see mother as protector, man as aggressor. Perhaps we are wired that way, perhaps not, but there are certainly exceptions to the stereotype.

And as we know, playing to stereotype can get us in trouble.

Well, I guess it depends on... (Below threshold)

Well, I guess it depends on the facts of the case.

Yates: extremely mentally ill, failed by her family, failed by her docs = sympathy. Susan Smith: killed kids bc she's a slut = no sympathy. Scott Peterson: killed pregnant wife bc he's a slut = no sympathy. (Peterson is the only example I can think of. Obviously, not the best bc he killed adult.)

So, I really don't see where the controversy is. Oh, wait, I remember some guy who killed his two kids and also tried to kill himself. He was ruled NGI, hospitalized for two years, ruled sane, and released. (Obviously, this happened a long time ago.)

And don't be so hard on Dietz. The defense asked him about the show. Have you never mixed up story lines to tv shows before? There is plenty of blame to go around and Dietz should shoulder the least amount of blame, if any at all.

It seems regardless of w... (Below threshold)

It seems regardless of which parent actually kills the children, the mother is seen as sympathetic and the father as monstrous. Why is this?

Because it's based on anecdotal stories and not statistics.

Oh, and as to your comment ... (Below threshold)

Oh, and as to your comment about whether NOW, or anyone for that matter, would want to be associated with Yates: If anyone needed an attorney or anyone else advocating for her fair treatment more, it is Yates.

I wrote to you, Jay, that I... (Below threshold)

I wrote to you, Jay, that I was taking a break from Wizbang but I visited to find Kevin's Trackback tool and then read this and felt compelled to write something -- however, julie has well covered the most important aspects already about this situation.

Andrea Yates is truly the epitome of an "insane person." Even noted as such prior to murdering her children (and, thus, it's recognized that there was a high degree of community failure to and about her and her horrific state of lack-of-mind even before she murdered her children), such that, if ever there was someone, ANYone, in need of mercy due to insanity, it is this woman.

Mercy as in, limit her access to society and provide for her needs as best as society can, and which, in this case, appears to be being done for her, and on behalf of society -- there's no mention or suggestion that this person should or would be left to her own devices ever, or anytime soon, so, in that regard, the legal decision is moreso to keep the legal proceedings in line than it is for any other reason. She'll get her retrial but she will also certainly face most of the rest of her life, if not all of that, in confinement. Best place for her.

If there's any prejudice based upon gender differences (I agree that there is up to a point), in the case of Andrea Yates, she is receiving the only alternative available to her given her insanity.

On the other hand, I still recoil about the O.J. Simpson decision. If ever a person deserved the death penalty and avoided it by gender bias, it is O.J. Simpson.

Because we recognize that t... (Below threshold)
Ray Midge:

Because we recognize that the bond between mother and child is stronger than that between father and child. It's in the "Hi mom" in the sideline close-ups; it's in the almost insurmountable custody default rules of each state's divorce laws.

Deep down, without any knowing any other facts of the situation we imagine a father killing his children as monstrously selfish - a hideous, but rational, freely willed choice to rid himself of a burden. A mother that does so the same is, to us, incomprehensible - beyond our ability to reason or relate to. Thus, she is insane, he is evil.

The question to the Yates jury, as I understand it, was was whether she could tell right from wrong however.
Was she wacked out? Yes. Did she know what she was doing was wrong? Yes. (If I recall correctly, didn't she lie about killing them afterwards, or try to hide the evidence?)

One reason we see women as ... (Below threshold)

One reason we see women as sympathetic is that they are the ones that are put upon 24/7 by their children from the moment of conception. We seem to assume that they just couldn't take it any more. Typically, the dad has an outlet: job, etc. that gets him a break, but the mom's job is the kids, so if she snaps, it's understandable, if he snaps it's unreasonable.

OJ wasn't let go because he's male. It's because he's rich.

Jay,Let me hit you w... (Below threshold)

Let me hit you with some REALITY of my own this time. Yes, Andrea Yates killed her children. Doctors knew she had a problem; her husband knew she had a problem; friends, if any, knew she had a problem. She is not a criminal; she was a very sick woman with post partum depression something you would not ever want to be hit with. She had babies, bing, bang, boom and no rest in between. Her hormones were going bing -bang-boom in her head and her bodies. THE LAST PLACE ANDREA YATES BELONGED WAS IN PRISON. She belonged in a hospital and she needed treatment. She's been in and out of hospitals while in prison and they have her finally stabilized. What strength it must take to live with oneself knowing she did this to her own children. I blame her husband for he should have known. He should have had a vascectomy, he should have made sure she was on medication and that she took it; he also should have provided her with help.

She was not found not guilty and what NOW did was the right thing - something that should have been done in the first place. She has to live with this and it will torture her the rest of her life but she needed help, not prison.

Now if you want to talk about what is right and what is wrong, grab Paul, invite Chad Evens and let's duke some stuff out someplace private.


Hmmm.The whole ide... (Below threshold)


The whole idea behind the "insanity defense" is idiotic IMHO. Does it matter to the victim whether the murderer was insane? No, not really. Whether someone goes to prison or not should depend on the crime, not how crazy the perp was. And even if someone does get sent to a mental ward, that shouldn't preclude sentencing in any way at all. Once they get "cured' they then can do the hard time.

As for Yates, the Texas State Supreme court will reinstate the conviction because who really cared about that guy's claim anyways. And if Yates does actually get a second trial, the outcome is going to still be the same.

And no, I don't buy post-partum depression. There's a lot of BS "diseases" and "sicknesses" that are just ridiculous. Like the guy in Britain that was sending out those emails telling families that their loved ones had died in the tsunami. That wonk is characterizing his awful prank as "a cry for help". Yeah. right.

J T It's nearly 3 ye... (Below threshold)
t. z.:

It's nearly 3 years later & this story still punches my VOMMIT button like V Kilitcko.
The bitch should fry, glad to see the lawyers having enough sense to only try her on 3 of the kids & not all 5 together.


I'm an adopte. Funny I dont... (Below threshold)

I'm an adopte. Funny I dont feel much like a "Choice."

There is a double standard ... (Below threshold)
Bernard Traxler:

There is a double standard when it comes to parents killing kids. But as with Susan Smith, it doesn't always apply. I think NOW identifies with female child killers because in their view, staying at home with a bunch of kids "would drive ANYBODY crazy". The average member of NOW will never be up for mother of the year. As for why Ms. Yate is getting a new trial, I think it's not only justified, it's mandatory. Dr. Dietz provided the one piece of evidence that pushed this jury to a guilty verdict, and that evidence was fraudulant, and most likely he knew it was. It's not hard to mix up story lines of a TV show when you're talking to a cohort at work over lunch, but when you're an "expert" witness in a court of law, that seems extremely unlikely to me. The posecuters say they didn't know such a show on Law and Order never aired, but more accurately, they didn't CARE if it ever aired. They certainly didn't bother to check if it was true. It doesn't take an expert to know if that show existed. They wanted that show to exist, so they could get their verdict. Ms. Yates is undoubtably crazy. I think the only humane thing to do with her is execute her. If she ever regains her sanity, and realizes what she did, she'll kill herself for sure. She is unfortunately, a lost cause.

Ray: No she never lied or h... (Below threshold)

Ray: No she never lied or hid what she did. The prosecution argued that she told the police she knew she would be punished, therefore, she knew what she did was wrong. Dietz testified that she believed Satan ordered her to kill her kids and that she covered them with a sheet, therefore, she knew what she was doing was wrong.

Ed: Without Dietz' s testimony there is insufficient evidence that she knew right from wrong and, therefore, insufficient evidence of the necessary mental state to convict her of murder. So, yeah, it is a big deal, and the state supreme court isn't going to reverse. And I agree I think post-partum depression had less to do with it , but her long history of schizophrenia did.

Dietz was asked by the DEFE... (Below threshold)

Dietz was asked by the DEFENSE:

Q.Now, you are, are you not, a consultant on the television program known as “Law & Order”?

A.Two of them.

Q.Okay. Did either one of those deal with postpartum depression or women’s mental health?

A.As a matter of fact, there was a show of a woman with postpartum depression who drowned her children in the bathtub and was found insane and it was aired shortly before the crime occurred.

How would the prosecution and Dietz know he was going to be asked that question? So he mixed it up with LA LAW. I see no indication it was anything but a mistake by Dietz. When the prosecution was notified that there was no L&O episode with that plot line, he notified the judge. The jury had already reached a verdict on guilt. They were informed of the error before they began deliberating on penalty. I suggest people actually read the court's decision before assuming, incorrectly, the facts.

How about guilty but insan... (Below threshold)
Steel Turman:

How about guilty but insane. When they're 'all
better' after treatment, they go to jail. They have
no place in society. They will always pose a threat.
Shouldn't breed. And they will never outlive the
stigma of the horror they commited.

Julie:I don't ques... (Below threshold)
Ray Midge:


I don't question the whole 'devil made me them up' thing, I don't recall the case that well.

I did read the CNN article on it (http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/01/06/children.drowned/index.html)
and I still don't see how Deitz's testimony on that Law and Order epsiode matters.

As I understand it, the only question before the jury was whether or not Yates knew what she was doing was wrong at the time she murdered them. The Appellate court was troubled by Deitz testifying that she may have been influenced by a L&O episode that featured a mother drowning her kids. He was mistaken.

I don''t understand how this fact (whether or not she had seen such an episode) has nay influence on whether she knew it was wrong or right when she later killed her kids. It has an impact on what may have given her the initial idea, or at leat how to do it, but how does the existence of that episode (or, more correctly, non existence) impact her perceiving the later act as right or wrong at that time?

I wonder if the Texas S. Ct will see the lack of connection as I do. You don't overturn a verdict for irrelevant , mistaken testimony. Am I misunderstanding something here?

Notice how it became female... (Below threshold)

Notice how it became female vs male in the arguments here? ;-)

From the coverage I saw thi... (Below threshold)

From the coverage I saw this doctors testimony was the ONLY testimony offered to rebut her case for insanity, hence mistake or not it was anything but trivial in the outcome. No one disputed that she killed her children, it was her mental condition and therefore her punishment (prison or mental hospital prison) that was what the trial was all about.

As I understand it, the ... (Below threshold)

As I understand it, the only question before the jury was whether or not Yates knew what she was doing was wrong at the time she murdered them.

Not really, first the jury had to decide if she was guilty of first degree murder which includes that she had the requisite mental intent. The defense was that she did not know right from wrong at the time, which the prosecution had to rebut and the jury had to ultimately decide whether true or not.

I still don't see how Deitz's testimony on that Law and Order epsiode matters.

Because there is more. The prosecution used it to impeach a defense expert witness, i.e., made the expert and her opinion look less credible. The implication was that the expert did not factor in that Yates got the idea from this program when rendering an opinion whether she knew right from wrong.

Then, in his closing, the prosecutor argued that Yates got the idea to kill her kids from the L&O episode she saw, therefore she had both premeditation, the necessary intent, and knew right from wrong. One problem: She never saw the episode because it does not exist.

You don't overturn a verdict for irrelevant , mistaken testimony. Am I misunderstanding something here?

They do overturn verdicts for insufficient evidence. An element of the offense that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt is her mental state, i.e., premeditation, intent, etc. Except for Dietz, all the evidence from the experts was that she was nuts. If you subtract Dietz because his evidence was false, all you are left with is evidence that she did not know right from wrong.

Of course, it does *not* de... (Below threshold)
R. Alazar:

Of course, it does *not* depend on the facts of the case.

A typical sentence for a woman convicted of killing her newborn is about 18 months. Women have a partial moral dispensation, and not only to kill their kids. Their denials, and claims of justification, excuse, and mitigation, however far-fetched, are gobbled up and defended.

And not only women. The dispensation extends also to certain minorities. You know which ones.

This dispensation isn't strong enough to get away with murder--well, sometimes--but it always raises the evidence threshold, reduces the sentence, and changes how "we" feel about the criminal.

(I resigned from "we" years ago.)

Unless you have such a law ... (Below threshold)

Unless you have such a law on the books, and Texas does not, you can't find her guilty but insane.

Julie:Good points.... (Below threshold)
Ray Midge:


Good points. I see how Dietz's L&O testimony is more crucial if the pros. used it to impeach def. witnesses in closing.

A couple things though. I think the mens rea of the initial charge was 'premeditation.' As I understand it, this was never an issue as she admitted she made plans to do it prior,or at least had been thinking about it for a few days. (Did the Def. even contest this?) With this in mind, it seems fair to say that the trial portion really did pivot on the issue of her knowing the action was wrong or not.

So I wonder what is the standard of error requiring a new trial in Texas? I assume the defense asked for a new trial from the trial court (just read a Time article saying the error was revealed post trial/presentencing) but was denied. The Appellate Court overtuned. Who will the S. Ct agree with?

Don't know. Can see your side better now. But generally, juries will want to hold someone accountable for killing multiple kids, and will buy any reason put before them as a justification. She's probably gulity on retrial if there is one.

Wow.First, OJ was ... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:


First, OJ was not acquitted because he was male or rich. It was a fluke, assisted by the fact that his courtroom was only two miles from the stadium where he earned his Heisman Trophy. I am an attorney, I attended law school at his alma mater, and I practice law in the court that acquitted him (in fact I also used to practice with the attorney that lost his civil case, but I left the firm before that debacle).

Second, Andrea Yates should, and I think will be, convicted again.

With regard to the "women must suffer days with the kids so they go nuts" arguement, it's crazy. I am a male attorney with 20 years experience. I was recently disabled by a cardiac condition so I watch my two children, and my girlfriend's two children, all girls, now aged 8, 10, 12 and 15, all day long. Do they drive me nuts at times? You betcha. Would I harm them? Of course not. If I did, would NOW or anyone else come to my rescue? Never. My waspiness would be sped down death row faster than Scott Peterson. And, that's as it should be.

I am Mr. Mom, but I lack the uterous. Should that make a difference? I don't think so.

I think there's some rushin... (Below threshold)

I think there's some rushing to judgement going on here.

If the Lord told her those children were possessed by Satan, how do we know they weren't, hmm? Were we there? I think not.

It could just be that she averted a much greater tragedy, that could have compromised the immortal souls of a whole lot more people.

Kind of like how we had to kill all those kids in Fallujah so they wouldn't grow up to be terrorists and attack America.

Does NOW want to face charg... (Below threshold)

Does NOW want to face charges that they favor the right of women to kill their children on a whole new front?

Well, Jay, at least you admit abortion is killing their children, just on a different front.

With NOW it is always all about the woman, no one else, not children, not men, not society. Feminism at it's very heart is pure and simple self involvement.

Some of your answers are of... (Below threshold)

Some of your answers are off the wall - like "ed" They knew when they tried her, she was suffering from post partum depression - being a guy,you'd never understand that. Women like Andrea Yates belong in a HOSPITAL and not in prison. Prison can't help her and she will be put in a hospital for a very, very loooooooooooong time. Read up, ed, if you don't understand it. NOW fought for her rights because they knew she belonged in a hospital, not in prison.


I think there is a double s... (Below threshold)

I think there is a double standard in these situations, but part of the reason is because of biology. Male and female brains are drastically different, especially in their response to stress. My understanding is that male brains are much better at shutting down certain areas of the brain and focusing all their energy in the frontal cortex where the "me" lives. So men find it much easier to focus on one thing at a time, whereas women find it easier to multitask. If you compare brain scans, you'll see that the female brains diffuses activity throughout the whole brain, whereas the male brain tends to light up in specific areas.

But in men, when the amgydala is activated, which controls your fear and anger responses, all bets are off and the brain is "taken over" by those emotions, which is why in a murder trial, men are generally given a pass if they were very angry or terrified at the time - the famous fight or flight response. It is believed that under these conditions, its harder to know the difference between right or wrong.

Women actually do not respond to stress with fight-or-flight as much as men do, they respond with something called tend-and-befriend, which releases oxytocin and calms them down and motivates them to protect their children. Here's a link. This hormone is also released during breast-feeding, so there's a definite link between pregnancy and babies and the ability to handle stress. For example, the woman's body may turn down the usual level of stress hormone to encourage her to get it from breastfeeding - if she doesn't breastfeed, her body may never figure that out, causing to her to be much more sensitive to stress. This sort of thing of course does not appear in the male brain, so when a male kills a child, its often a vastly different brain situation.

So a double standard in brains should be reflected by a double standard in the law. The so-called "crimes of passion" are viewed more sympathetically by juries, and this disproportionately favors men because men are much more likely to react in that way than women, so it seems that men already have the advantage in the law.

I also wonder about the pre... (Below threshold)

I also wonder about the presumption that "Of course, 5 kids at home will drive you crazy." I suppose that in this day of birth control and older age at marriage, people aren't used to families of 5+ kids, but it was rather common in my grandparents' day. My maternal grandma had 6 kids, with an age difference between the oldest and youngest about 8 years. My husband's maternal grandma had 10 kids. Neither of these women had the money to have domestic help (when the kids were young, at least), and didn't have help from family in raising the kids. These weren't unusual families and situations for the time. The vast majority of people do not kill their kids, no matter how many they have.

And Andrea Yates didn't kill her kids because there were so many. There are women who go through her experience with their first birth -- there are mothers suffering psychosis who murder their only child. And the mother in these cases isn't necessarily staying at home full-time, either.

Having been through childbirth once, and soon to go through it again, I can say that pregnancy and childbirth really does a number on your body and brain, especially the huge hormonal wave after birth. Even breastfeeding, you are at best "fuzzy" the first couple weeks after birth, and it's not due to sleep deprivation.

The stories I've heard about the Yates family doesn't sound like either Mr. or Mrs. Yates were monsters. Mr. Yates did try to get treatment for his wife, and objected to her being taken off medication. Mrs. Yates had no control over her psychosis. It's easy to second-guess what should have been done by the doctor and family members, but most women suffering postpartum mental illness do not kill their families or act violent in any way. I feel sympathy for the entire family.

I do not fault NOW for trying to support Mrs. Yates, though I fault them for the "anyone at home with 5 kids would go crazy" insinuation. Because that's untrue - it does a disservice to families and to the mentally ill. External factors, like the number of kids, does not make a person "go crazy", any more than a "frigid mom" causes schizophrenia. I'm tired of these antiquated ideas of mental illness.

'being a guy,you'd never un... (Below threshold)
Jack Tanner:

'being a guy,you'd never understand that.'

Caveman no understand. Too stupid.

'Women like Andrea Yates belong in a HOSPITAL and not in prison.'

Obviously murdering 5 children by drowning them in a bathtub polluted with the vomit and feces of their brothers and sisters is like knee surgery or pneumonia, not a crime.

'Prison can't help her'

Help her what? Lose weight? Learn a new hobby? Job training? Work out things with hubby? Learn how to play some murder sympathizing psychiatrist so she can be deinstitutionalized?

Iraqi kids are going to att... (Below threshold)

Iraqi kids are going to attack America! Please tell me you are a comedian. Get back to kindergarten and restart the education you obviously never had minnie or just go back to your day job at Disney where all the other dreams can become reality.


Insanity is not at issue in... (Below threshold)

Insanity is not at issue in Yates' case: the woman is obviously a nutjob. All the prosecution needed to prove was NOT that she was of sound mind(shw wasn't) but that she had intent and knew right from wrong. Let's see:

1) One of her children ran and hid upon seeing his(or her) dead siblings. Yates went, found the child, dragged him back to the tub to join his brothers and sisters in the hereafter.

2) She called the police to confess after killing the last child.

I'm not quibbling here. Insanity as a defense doesn't simply mean "he/she wasn't in his/her right mind"; it's supposed to be a defense for someone that has lost touch with reality, i.e. stabbing someone while thinking they're carving a cantaloupe, and that the person in question cannot distinguish between right and wrong. Just being unbalanced, which Yates is, in of itself is not sufficient to warrant an aquittal by reason of insanity. Was she aware of what she was doing and did she know what she was doing was wrong? The answer to both of those questions is yes. Hence the guilty verdict.

This is strictly Texas law I'm talking about. Each state has its own burden of proof for the insanity defense. The Lone Star State puts a serious burden on the defendant for that particular defense.

Cindy,I'm sorry, t... (Below threshold)


I'm sorry, there is not a condition/disease out there that can explain the merciless killing of 5 children at the hands of their mother. That is reality. The woman may be sick, but she is also evil. She may have had post partum depression, so what? Not every woman with post partum kills their kids. I do not see any reason why the death penalty should not be pursued in this case.

You have to be responsible for your own actions.

O.J. was acquitted because ... (Below threshold)

O.J. was acquitted because he is black. See Daniel Petrochelli's book on the civil trial for background. He did a number of mock trials in front of test juries, and the black test juries never considered the evidence in their deliberations, but only exchanged stories on police misconduct in L.A. For many blacks, the O.J. trial was not a search for the truth as to whether O.J. murdered his wife and another man; it was the "system" that was on trial.

Women are given the benefit of the doubt when they kill because groups like NOW have succeeded in creating a culture of victimhood, whereby women cannot be held truly accountable for their actions. For more on this, see the rantings of Catherine McKinnon, who argues that women can't even be held responsible for entering into contracts because they lack bargaining power, and every transaction with a male constitues a rape. Uber-feminists like McKinnon have ironically tried to take us back to the 19th-century, when women were deemed incompetent to enter into contracts because they couldn't possibly make rational decisions.

That being said, if Yates pleaded insanity then she must satisfy the statutory definition of insanity under state law. Most states go by one of two definitions of insanity in a criminal case: either (a) that the perp suffered from an irresistible impulse; or (b) that the perp was unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the act. I believe that Texas follows (b), but I could be incorrect on that.

Thus, assuming that Texas follows definition (b), if Yates knew that what she was doing was wrong at the time that she did it, she should fry.

Well, gee, ray, if I had kn... (Below threshold)

Well, gee, ray, if I had known you were going to throw around phrases like mens rea I would have cut to the chase. I don't live in Texas so I really don't know the nitty gritty on how they do things down there. I would assume in Texas they still have to prove malice aforethought or premeditation and deliberation. Insanity does negate these elements. The standard is whether the error was harmless or not. It was not. I'd be shocked if the Supreme Court doesn't affirm the lower appellate court's ruling. On retrial, it is going to be more difficult to convict her. All the people who examined her thought she was crazy except Dietz. If they call Dietz, he will be impeached with his error. The whole issue may be moot because from what I have read, Yates is very ill. She has been transferred to a hospital, has lost a ton of weight, and is asking about who is taking care of her kids. Until and if she is deemed competent, they can't retry her.

'Yates is very ill.'<... (Below threshold)
Jack Tanner:

'Yates is very ill.'

She'll recover after the plea bargain.

'She has been transferred to a hospital, has lost a ton of weight'

Lucky her - that way she'll look more presentable at the plea hearing.

'is asking about who is taking care of her kids'

Well God is. She knows that, she killed them.

Caring for five kids on her... (Below threshold)

Caring for five kids on her own did not make her crazy. She was a drug treatment resistant schizophrenic and took care of 5 kids at home. Imagine that you had the flu but had to take care of your 5 kids. Do you think that it might make you even more ill?

And, if insanity was not an issue, why did all but Dietz testify that she was insane?

Post partum depression was not the cause of her mental illness, it merely triggered and exasperated her schizophrenia.

At least in the state of California, woman are convicted of murdering their children all the time. To say they get off because they are women is pure bullshit.

Caveman no understand. T... (Below threshold)

Caveman no understand. Too stupid. -- Jack Tanner

At least you one thing right.

Cindy,I'm sorry, t... (Below threshold)


I'm sorry, there is not a condition/disease out there that can explain the merciless killing of 5 children at the hands of their mother. That is reality. The woman may be sick, but she is also evil. She may have had post partum depression, so what? Not every woman with post partum kills their kids. I do not see any reason why the death penalty should not be pursued in this case.

You have to be responsible for your own actions.

Posted by: Mike at January 7, 2005 10:13 AM

Mike, the death penalty doesn't count here; she was not responsible and she is mentally incompetent. They knew that but rushed so fast to a trial that they could not change it from not guilty to not guilty by reason of mental defect. Andrea Yates may never get out of a mental hospital which is where she will end up. If you were schizoid or bipolar or your wife if you have one was, being found guilty of something you had absolutely no control over, is not justice. So the change that occurred yesterday was the right change. It's like "Primal Fear" except she didn't pretend to be insane, she was insane and suffered mental illness and this is why the change was made. It's the justified thing to do.


I think it's because we ste... (Below threshold)

I think it's because we stereotypically see the father as the protector of the family. When he goes wacko and axes the kids, what was the mother to do? But when the mother's synapses start misfiring, everybody wants to know what the father, who is supposed to be protecting his family, was doing to prevent it from happening.

Someone by the name of STUD... (Below threshold)

Someone by the name of STUDIO sent me HATE MAIL and more today.

Get a life assole.


Grrr!Caveman no... (Below threshold)


Caveman no understand. Too stupid. -- Jack Tanner

At least you got one thing right.

'she was not responsible'</... (Below threshold)
Jack Tanner:

'she was not responsible'

Who was?

'They knew that but rushed so fast to a trial'

June 20, 2001, Yates confessed to police that she drowned her five children in a bathtub because she had been a bad mother who hopelessly damaged them and was convicted by a jury of her peers on March 13, 2002.

'Andrea Yates may never get out of a mental hospital '

I'll take the under on never. But those five kids who she murdered in their brothers and sisters piss and vomit are never going to have another birthday.

'being found guilty of something you had absolutely no control over'

Well apparently she had enough control to chase them down and drown them then call her husband and tell her she just killed all the kids.

Well Jack beat me to it, bu... (Below threshold)

Well Jack beat me to it, but I'll mention it again, if she wasn't responsible than who was?? Her husband, her doctors?? I can't stand it when people make excuses or try and point the blame at others for their (or someone else's) actions.

It's the justified thing to do.

According to you it is, that is your opinion. My opinion was that I felt the death penalty should be used even in cases where people are mentally incompotent (retarded). I wonder if your opinion would change if your husband (if you have one) was killed by someone who is bipolar and claims after the fact to not know what he was doing.

You say it's not justice, well how do you tell the relatives of murdered victims that this person was sick so they didn't know what they were doing when they killed your loved one. But we're going to put him/her in a hospital so he/she can recieve treatment and get better, and maybe if that happens we can release back into society. That is justice? Are you kidding me.

Actually, Sparkle, "Feminis... (Below threshold)

Actually, Sparkle, "Feminism at it's very heart is pure and simple" theory. And on occasion, activism.

For what it's worth, I responded to this post at my site.

MikeMy husband was... (Below threshold)


My husband was killed by a 16 year old girl who just got her license in June of 1978 fully aware that he was behind her and decided to make a U-turn on a street and she got away with it. She was not mentally ill but plain old stupid.


This isn't about male vs fe... (Below threshold)
Just Don:

This isn't about male vs female. Isn't it, as I understand the news story, about perjured testimony by a prosecution expert witness?

It isn't even about guilt or innocence but sane or insane.

I'm sorry to hear about you... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry to hear about your husband's death Cindy, however I have to disagree with you and julie.

That she was guilty is without question, what should happen to her? well that depends upon state law. I don't know Texas State law, but I'm sure will end up with the death penalty. I can see all of your arguing points, but sheesh. The woman killed her own kids, and even mercilessly tracked down a hiding child and dragged the kid, probably kicking, screaming, crying "no mommy, no" and killed the kid with the rest of them. Are you saying that she should eventually be returned to society?

No matter what your stance is, that is one disturbed person, they should be COMPLETELY removed from society, whatever that entails.

Cindy,I am truly s... (Below threshold)


I am truly sorry for your loss. But how do you mean she got away with it? I would hope that she would be prosecuted for manslaughter if the accident was a result of her negligence. I certainly do not want to debate the loss of your husband because I know nothing about it.

Back to the Yates case, this woman knew what she was doing, she went looking for her kids, she called the police and confessed. Even if this woman is mentally ill, she has to face the consequences of her actions. She killed those kids, nobody else did. I don't care if you want to call her sick, insane, or what have you, she still has to be brought to justice for her crimes. And to me, the only justice would be the death penalty.

Henry:Yates was al... (Below threshold)


Yates was already tried and acquitted by the jury on the death penalty. She can only be retried for first degree murder, not death.

As to your statement that she is guilty without question: Did she kill her kids? Sure. Did she have the requisite intent to be found guilty of murder under the law is debatable. Again, there is overwhelming evidence that she did not. At this point, she doesn't even seem competent to stand trial. And until she is, nothing will happen.

Do you really think anyone wants to put her in a position where she can hurt anyone else again? Even if she were aquitted of all charges tomorrow, I have no doubt she would be civilly committed.

Putting aside the specifics... (Below threshold)
Ray Midge:

Putting aside the specifics of Texas law, it seems to me that what is really being debated here is whether the criminal law should conform to logic or emotion.

The reason/legal crowd here say she was suffering from some form of insanity (delusions) so that while she retained the ability to reason "right and wrong" action/outcomes, her "freely willed" choices among those outcomes were based on delusions. And because we know these delusions are not the product of her free will (she certainly would prefer not to be delusional) she, ultimately, cannot be held responsible for her actions because they were "beyond her control."

The emotive crowd says "I feel in me a great moral revulsion to her actions." Why? She acted with premeditation, knowing she was killing the children and knew that the rest of society would view her actions as wrong (although she may have internally felt they were right and that society wouldn't recognize her actions as the "right course" they were). In short, they feel moral revulsions for premeditated actions that the actor knows society feels are wrong. This, to them, is a good enough reason for legal responsibility. "Besides", they say, "we walk down a dangerous road when we say someone's not reasonsible every time physchiatrists can label particularized bad acting a 'syndrome'."

Me? I like the emotive crowd. Someone kills my child and I want them dead regardless of the mental state of that person. Illogical in some cases, but my emotions and desires are not ruled by normative logic. How instructive should logic be anyway? How will the logic crowd react when science pulls back the curtain to reveal ALL actions are physcially determined and we merely feel the conscious sensation of freely willing some of them - when neurologically, causally, speaking, Ms. Yates actions are no more "under her control" than the mother who kills to collect on the childrens' insurance policies.

Ultimately, science and logic will lead us to the conclusion that no one is "responsible." Screw that, it makes me feel far too bad to let my child's murderer (killer) off the hook. Logic asks too much of me.

Ultimately, our system (if democratic) must punish those who seem, to us, as if they are "evil." Ms. Yates actions were evil. How do I know? Cause they feel that way.

Gee, Ray, I like how you ap... (Below threshold)

Gee, Ray, I like how you apply the few facts you know, to a very limited knowledge and understanding of a complex legal matter and determine that you, and people who think like you, are "moral" and those who disagree, aren't. All I can say is, cough, bullshit, cough.

Julie:Your comment... (Below threshold)
Ray Midge:


Your comment is a bit unfair. I don't suppose those with whom I disagree are somehow "immoral." Quite the contrary, I assume they come to their conclusions on what is just here based on a fair inquiry into what they feel is just.

I don't think it's immoral to want to uphold the principle that people shouldn't be punished for actions that are the result of a mental disorder - or beyond their control in some sense. I just think it has internal inconsisencies based on my reasoning above. Based on this, and searching my own feelings, I come to a different conclusion than you. I certainly don't know all the facts or understand the law as well as you do, but does that really mean my opinion is "bullshit"?

C'mon. Play nice. Or at least try to change my mind.

I don't suppose those wi... (Below threshold)

I don't suppose those with whom I disagree are some how "immoral." Quite the contrary, I assume they come to their conclusions on what is just here based on a fair inquiry into what they feel is just.

What they feel? I thought you were the one who feels and we were the ones who employed reason and logic. Anyway, you contradict yourself:

The emotive crowd says [as opposed to the reason/legal crowd] "I feel in me a great moral revulsion to her actions."

and this:

In short, they feel moral revulsions [as opposed to the reason/legal crowed] . . .

and this:

Ultimately, science and logic [the reason/legal crowd] will lead us to the conclusion that no one is "responsible." [no morality at all, huh?]

I don't think it's immoral to want to uphold the principle that people shouldn't be punished for actions that are the result of a mental disorder - or beyond their control in some sense. I just think it has internal inconsisencies based on my reasoning above.

One, you contradict yourself, and two, what reasoning? You feeeeeeeeeeeel, remember?

Based on this, and searching my own feelings, I come to a different conclusion than you. I certainly don't know all the facts or understand the law as well as you do, but does that really mean my opinion is "bullshit"?

Though the bullshit comment was actually directed at your belief in your moral superiority, now that you ask, yes.

C'mon. Play nice. Or at least try to change my mind.


Julie:Responded to... (Below threshold)
Ray Midge:


Responded to you on the new posting re: Yates.

Responding to someone, in t... (Below threshold)

Responding to someone, in the thread, earlier...too many to reread, sorry:

The O.J.Simpson thing being referred to earlier by me as being "gender bias" in action as to his skipping past a guilty verdict for murder one, was due to the fact that the very presence of the man is based upon his appearance of a male stereotype...that and that the fact that the jury was majority populated by sympathetic females and black females especially (in this case, individually selected as such, not so much their racial characteristics but their personalities AS blacks and as black females sympathetic to and impressed by the success of O.J. as a black man), and, the fact that his very issue was a stereotypically a male issue (nearly by a mile, although I realize that some females abuse their male partners and some even murder, but the majority of this behavior is by males who abuse female companions/partners).

I write "stereotypically" in reference to frequency of occurence within populations...it's more prevalent (at least studied, identified) that males abuse females than vice versa, is what I mean here.

And, in the case of O.J., his entire line of defense and means to defend himself were based upon a male personna, a "male" "success model" so to speak...everything about the person characterized a certain male presumption against a female spouse/companion, right down to not being held accountable for his terrible behavior toward her (and others, in all due respect to Ron Goldman, may he rest in peace).

Several of the females on the jury later shared that they were impressed with the Simpson defense and Simpson himself, not being able to admit that he was a murderer based upon his "stature" and 'fame" and achievements and such, and, there was that thing about Johnny Cochran (certainly not a female stereotype) who "commanded the courtroom" (a very, very male stereotype if not several) that also "impressed" female jurists.

I didn't read too many comments by the males on the jury, however, which also tells me quite a bit about the societal interest in the jury response -- again, a gender bias issue.

And, about the issues here of male vs. female, it was the very premise raised by Jay Tea as to the thread, so some of us commented on that.






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