I’ve avoided commenting on Houston’s other big story, mostly because I’m conflicted about it. What Andrea Yates did was horrible, but I don’t believe that killing her is in the interests of justice.
I think we can all agree that Andrea Yates is ill. Her attorneys are going for an insanity defense, but this is a tall order. According to Texas law, you must “at the time of the conduct charged…not know that [your] conduct was wrong”. However sick Yates is and was, revelations that she considered using a knife to kill her children don’t make it easy to conclude that she didn’t know what she was doing at the time.
I think what really bothers me about this whole thing is how polarized discussion of it has been from the beginning. Wanting to understand how this could happen and how we could prevent it from happening again does not mean wanting to absolve Andrea Yates from all blame. Questioning the appropriateness of the death penalty in this case does not mean that one wants to see Yates walk out of the courtroom with her freedom and a lifetime supply of Zoloft.
There’s a difference between what Andrea Yates did and what, say, Susan Smith did, and it’s not in the number of dead children. Ask yourself this question: If Yates’ erratic and ultimately lethal behavior had been caused by a brain tumor, would you feel differently about her? If the answer is yes, then why is postpartum psychosis and schizophrenia not enough to mitigate your emotions?
In The New Republic, Michelle Cottle proposes sterilizing Andrea Yates as part of her sentence. This is a can of worms in a tar baby on a slippery slope, but it’s hard to argue that another Yates pregnancy would be in any way a good thing. I’m having a hard time resisting the urge to say “And while you’re at it, let’s fix Rusty Yates, too.”
Like I said, I’m conflicted. I’m sure glad I wasn’t called to be on this jury, though I daresay they’d have voir-dired my butt out of there. It will be interesting to see what the jurors have to say after the trial, regardless of the verdict.