Friday, January 07, 2005

What’s wrong with this picture?

Then this: talk about ‘ripped from the headlines.’ Andrea Yates' conviction was overturned on a mistaken recollection from Park Dietz about a Law and Order episode that never was. I’m glad Yates may be getting a new trial. I just read this from way back when she was convicted and had no idea of the stringency of the Texas insanity defense.
What I don’t understand about Texas law is how they get away with the "sudden passion" defense yet have this impossibly narrow insanity definition?

Here is how Texas murder law is spelled out:
Homicide is unlawfully causing the death of an individual. There are four types of homicide: murder, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Most forms of homicide are felonies.
Murder is causing the death of an individual under any of the following circumstances:
By intentionally or knowingly causing the death
By intending to cause serious bodily injury and committing an act that clearly endangers human life
While committing a felony and committing an act that clearly endangers human life
While fleeing from committing a felony and committing an act that clearly endangers human life

Murder is divided into subcategories by degree of seriousness. If the defendant commits any of the above acts, he or she will be charged with murder. At the sentencing stage of the trial, if the defendant is able to prove he or she committed the murder while immediately influenced by sudden passion, and that the passion arose from an adequate cause, the defendant will be sentenced for murder of the second degree [emphasis added].

I’m now wondering how they define “adequate cause” and if hearing the voice of god tell you to kill your children qualifies. I found a definition of "brief reactive psychosis," and I am wondering if this is what they have in mind.

If there is a second trial, I would love to see more responsibility placed on the husband (it was clear that Yates was at the very least suffereing from severe post partum depression. Hello? Birth control?) After her fourth child, Luke, was born in 97, her doctor at the time, Dr. Starbranch, advised both Rusty and Andrea not to have any more kids. In March of 2000 Rusty convinced her to become pregnant again. Read more here>.
Then there's the psychiatrist Yates saw when she returned to the hospital just after her father died later in March of that year, Dr. Mohammed Saeed, who told Yates, on her last visit to him before she killed her children, to “think positive thoughts.” Help me, Rhonda. This guy needs to be punished for making such a stupid and useless statement to someone who is clearly was very ill and possibly psychotic.

There's more detailed discussion of this here and here at "Off the Kuff." Also read this interesting observation from Kuffner's archives about Dietz's testimony at Deanna Laney's trial earlier this year. Good stuff.


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