Andrea Yates not guilty by reason of insanity

Texas mother said to have suffered from severe postpartum psychosis.

Published July 26, 2006 5:52PM (EDT)

Andrea Yates, the 45-year-old Texas mother who drowned her five children in 2001, has, in a second trial, been found not guilty by reason of insanity. (Her previous murder conviction was overturned because of erroneous evidence involving a nonexistent episode of "Law and Order.") Yates, no longer facing life in prison, will now be committed to a state mental hospital.

The insanity, in this case, was deemed to be severe postpartum psychosis. Yates' attorneys argued that she believed Satan was inside her; in her delusional state, she was trying to save her children from herself, and from hell. And indeed, jurors were convinced.

Though no aspect of a case so horrific could comfortably be called a "victory," it's worth noting that postpartum depression in its less severe, more common forms, has struggled for recognition as a legitimate medical condition. And that today, a government that prioritizes embryonic stem cells over needy children, say, all too often blames -- if not incarcerates -- "bad" mothers rather than offering the support they need. There's no happy ending here, but at least there's a little room for compassion.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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