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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Crime of the Century: Andrea Yates

Aired July 28, 2013 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


NARRATOR: An unspeakable crime. An unlikely criminal. The ultimate tabloid murder.

LARRY KING, TV HOST: Your thoughts on this Andrea Yates story?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a horror.

GEORGE PARNHAM, YATES DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This was the very definition of Madonna and child turned upside down.

NARRATOR: Five young children dead at the hands of their own mother.

DR. LUCY PURYEAR, DEFENSE PSYCHIATRIST: She was a sickest woman I'd ever seen.

FRANK STUMPO (RET.), HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: She might have been in left field but she was in the stadium.

NARRATOR: Was she simply cold-blooded or was something else to blame?

JOSEPH OWMBY, FORMER CO-PROSECUTOR, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: If you commit a crime and had found not guilty by reason of insanity and it's a very horrendous crime, you will probably never leave a Texas prison.

NARRATOR: It was a terrible personal tragedy that became a white hot media spectacle.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: She drowned her kids because she didn't want them to go to hell.

NARRATOR: Captivating and horrifying viewers from coast to coast.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Did he know that his wife would be a danger to those five children?

DR. PHILLIP RESNICK, UH CASE MEDICAL CENTER: She did not show remorse. She did not show regret. She believed that she had arranged for her children to go to heaven.

NARRATOR: The murder case that shocked the nation. And cast a harsh new light on the very nature of motherhood.

RUSTY YATES, HUSBAND: I view her as a victim. I don't view her as a criminal.

NARRATOR: The State of Texas versus Andrea Yates, next. UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Are you having a disturbance? Are you ill or what?

ANDREA YATES, CONVICTED OF KILLING HER CHILDREN: Yes, I'm ill.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: You need an ambulance?

YATES: No. I need a police officer.

NARRATOR: The woman on the phone is Andrea Yates. She is living the American dream. A house in the suburbs. An RV in the backyard.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: What's the problem?

YATES: I just need them to come.

NARRATOR: They all seemed to happy. Five healthy children. A loving mother. And a successful dad who worked for NASA.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Is your husband there?

YATES: No.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Well, what's the problem?

YATES: I need them to come.

NARRATOR: It's a Tuesday morning. Just after 9:00. Yates has just fed the kids. Then she draws the bath.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: What's the problem?

YATES: Um.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Is someone burglarizing your house? I mean, what is it?

STUMPO: The dispatcher assigned me that particular call for service being that it was in my zone of responsibility. Another unit, David Knapp (ph), he checked by with me which is common practice. You know, day shift. It's slow. Guys killing time, helping each other out.

NARRATOR: Eight minutes after dialing 911 Andrea Yates calls her husband, Rusty Yates, and tells him it's time to come home. It's not yet 10:00 a.m.

RUSTY YATES, HUSBAND: I couldn't imagine what actually had happened but I was worried because well, Andrea called me with a firm tone, said I needed to come home, and so I did.

STUMPO: I moved into the house and David approached me right at the hallway and I said, what's going on? And he looked at me and said, it's a homicide. So I looked to my right and down and there was Yates. She was sitting on the couch. She's just sitting there. She never looked at me. I walked into the room and I was expecting to find a man on the floor. A body. And I was looking around, looking around, saying, what? And I see this little, tiny head. And it was looking right at me. And a little head was about maybe 10 or 15 feet from me at the edge of the bed. I said, what in the world? I thought it was a doll.

And I walked over to that little tiny head and I touched it, right here, put my finger on it and I said, what in the -- and I picked up the blanket and there was that little tiny body. It was a human being. I said, oh my. And I picked -- as I continued to pick up the blanket, it was one body after another. One. Two. Three. Four.

I walked back down the hallway. Made a right turn after the bathroom and there I found the oldest one floating face down in the tub.

NARRATOR: A devout Christian dedicated to having as many children as God would allow, Andrea Yates had methodically drowned her own kids one by one in the family tub.

STUMPO: We didn't know what to do. We just looked at each other and there was this moment in time where all the training, you know, all the scenes that you have made, everything that you have been taught and learned and instinct went right out the window.

R. YATES: Police were there in my yard. I wanted to go inside. They wouldn't let me inside. They told me what happened. And you know, I just, I remember laying in the grass and just bawling.

STUMPO: And the husband showed up. And he was started screaming, Andrea, you finally did it. Andrea, you really did it. She just sat there and just stared at the door with just blank look on her face. It was just like void of anything.

But everybody was affected. And anyone that says they weren't, they're not telling the truth.

NARRATOR: The stories spread like wildfire. Reporters and first responders swarm the area. Frank Stumpo was assigned to take Andrea Yates to jail.

STUMPO: The news media were there en masse. They were there, 50, 60, 70 people. A woman can wipe out five of her kids, wipe out a whole family, and becomes a star. And that's what she was. And I told her that. I says, now you're a celebrity. And I brought her into the homicide division, brought her upstairs, and that was it.

NARRATOR: A mother killing her own child is unthinkable. A mother killing all five of her children is completely unimaginable. How can we begin to comprehend the circumstances that brought Andrea Yates to that point?

PURYEAR: She was a perfectionist. She did very well in high school. I think she was valedictorian of her high school class. Grades were very important to her. Being a good daughter was very important to her. She went to nursing school and went to a very prestigious nursing school in Texas. Did very well in nursing school. And then married and started having children and her goal was to be a wonderful mother.

NARRATOR: They met in 1989. They were both 25. Four years later, they married. Almost immediately, Andrea was pregnant.

R. YATES: I think the thing that surprised us is how fast that happened. She used to joke -- I mean, she would mind me to say this, that she called herself Fertile Myrtle. That's what she'd say because seemed like every -- yes. It wasn't hard.

NARRATOR: They would give each child a biblical name.

PARNHAM: I know that Rusty knew and believed that, you know, we'll have as many kids as God will permit.

PURYEAR: The Yates family was very religious.

R. YATES: From a religion standpoint I would say we're both pretty conservative.

NARRATOR: Rusty had been serious about religion since college. He introduced Andrea to the unconventional preachings of a man named Michael Woroniecki.

PURYEAR: Woroniecki. And his family traveled around the country or certainly around Texas in a bus proselytizing I think mostly on college campuses.

PARNHAM: All the female students, they were all going to hell because they were studying and learning in a material world when they should be out there reproducing.

PURYEAR: The dilemma with his message as I understand it is that if you think you're saved, if you think you're a Christian, if you think you're going to heaven, then that proves you're going to hell because that's prideful and only God knows who's going to heaven. You are sort of got pinned into a coroner in that way of thinking.

NARRATOR: By 1996, the Yates had two children, Noah and John. And a short-term job opportunity in Florida. Rusty opted not to be burdened by owning another house.

R. YATES: Going in to an RV was kind of more of an experiment for us. And so what we did is we rented our house that we had here and bought a 38-foot travel trailer and pulled it to Florida and lived at a campground in Florida during the course of that assignment.

NARRATOR: At the time, Andrea was again pregnant. She miscarried just after the move. In 1997, the Yates returned to Houston where their third son is born. In 1998, they trade in the RV for a renovated 350-square-foot bus, a bus they bought from Michael Woroniecki. Baby number four arrives a few months later.

PURYEAR: That went on the bus. It was a bus. It was small. And there was a trap door that lifted up and you'd look down and the luggage compartment and there were pallets on the floor where the children slept. RESNICK: Mrs. Yates was overwhelmed. She was -- had begun homeschooling and she just couldn't handle it.

PARNHAM: You can imagine homeschooling. She was changing diapers 24/7. Washing diapers. Not permitted to use Pampers. Had to use cloth diapers because they were more basic. They were the salt of the earth. Return to -- you know, disassociate from materialism. Return to the basics.

RESNICK: So there's no question that she was stressed.

NARRATOR: Andrea Yates' life had begun to unravel.

R. YATES: She seemed perfectly fine up until after we had Luke, which was our fourth.

RESNICK: After her fourth child was born, she actually struggled with the thought of killing her child and she made a suicide attempt rather than risk harming her child.

PURYEAR: And there was one psychiatrist who saw her who told her and Rusty don't have any more children. You need to stop.

A. YATES: Here we are on our way home. What does that say? Congratulations Rusty and Andrea. It's a boy. That's so cute. Giving us a little welcome home. Yes.

NARRATOR: Just a year later, the Yates were expecting their fifth child.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thirty-six-year-old Andrea Yates shows no emotion minutes after admitting to police the unthinkable. Murdering five children.

RESNICK: Andrea Yates was a major story. Number one, there were five children. Number two, Rusty Yates was very forthcoming with the press, and was very willing to speak.

R. YATES: What happened was just, you know, incomprehensible.

RESNICK: So a confluence of various factors came together to make that not only a national case but an international case.

NARRATOR: Given the circumstances, it was inevitable. Almost overnight Andrea Yates became a household name and a condition called postpartum psychosis, a hotly contested topic.

RESNICK: It is not the same as the baby blues which are very common. Postpartum psychosis is only about one case in 1,000 births. Often a woman is very psychotic, hallucinations, delusions, confused. Usually so severe it requires hospitalization.

KING: On June 20th, 2001, Andrea Yates called police to her home, showed them the bodies of her drowned children. Noah, 7, John 5, Paul 3, Luke 2 and Mary 6 months.

R. YATES: You know, I had no idea what was going on. I mean, I didn't know anything about mental illness or postpartum depression or psychosis or anything.

PURYEAR: If you have more and more children, the risk that you are going to have more of these episodes is higher. And with the psychotic episodes, they tend to get worse.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE DETECTIVE: After you drew the bath water, what was your intent? What were you about to do?

A. YATES: Drown my children.

NARRATOR: Andrea Yates never denied that she killed her children. But was she cold-blooded or desperately ill?

By all accounts, she was a devoted mother. But her defense doctors say she became more desperate and secretive with each pregnancy. The crisis point came in 1999 after the birth of her fourth child.

PURYEAR: There were two suicide attempts in these pregnancies and what she said to me was she didn't want to hurt her children. She wanted to herself.

NARRATOR: Andrea Yates was hospitalized after both attempts. The second time, she was put on the powerful anti-psychotic drug Haldol. And it worked. So well, in fact, that she and Rusty were soon talking about a fifth child.

R. YATES: You know, the decision to have more children in 2001 was based on information we got from the doctor as we'd successfully treated in 1999. If it happened again, we knew how to treat it now. Thinking ahead, we were thinking while this will be -- if it happens at all, it's going to be a relatively short spell. She'll be down at worst for a while.

NARRATOR: For the Yates, adding to their family outweighed the risks. To ensure a healthy pregnancy, Andrea Yates went off all her medication.

PURYEAR: If you're on medication and you come on and off of it, a lot we think that it does something to your brain and then if you get sick, you often get sicker and then it becomes harder to treat the second, third, fourth time.

NARRATOR: Following the first hospitalization, the Yates had moved out of the bus and into a new house. In November 2000, they welcomed their fifth child and first girl, Mary.

R. YATES: This is our little girl that was born today.

NARRATOR: Everything seemed fine. Until the following March when Andrea's father died.

PARNHAM: Andrea's such a wonderful, caring person who cared deeply for her father. And felt a great deal of responsibility because she was the nurse in the family. Come March 31st, she is taken by Rusty to Devereux Hospital. Rusty's concerned about her. Andrea was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, postpartum onset.

PURYEAR: At that time, hospitals weren't educated about postpartum illness, psychiatrists weren't educated about postpartum illness.

NARRATOR: After the 2001 hospitalization, Andrea continued seeing a hospital psychiatrist as an outpatient. But she wasn't put back on Haldol and Rusty hesitated to question the doctor.

R. YATES: You know, if I were to challenge him and say, well, this medicine worked for her in '99 why aren't we trying it now? I'm confident this will work, you know, and kind of looking back to his, you know, diploma on the wall.

NARRATOR: Rusty flew his mother out to Houston to help Andrea with the kids. What she saw frightened her.

RESNICK: Her mother-in-law, Rusty's mother, was in the house and said, Andrea, why are you filling the bathtub at 4:00 in the afternoon, and Andrea gave a vague answer, I might have use for it. That so concerned Rusty's mother that they arranged for her to be hospitalized within 24 hours.

NARRATOR: When Andrea was sent home from Devereux the second time, she was just as disoriented as before. Rusty took her back to the outpatient facility.

PARNHAM: Rusty said, I'm very concerned about her. She's not responding to this anti-depressant medication. Rusty reported that the doctors' comment was, Andrea, you have to think happy thoughts.

NARRATOR: Two days after that appointment, on June 20th, 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her children one by one. And then patiently waited to be arrested.

PURYEAR: When I saw her in the jail that first time, I would ask her questions and she would answer it in nonsense. She heard the TV talking to her and she was picking her scalp which I saw her do. Later to learn that the belief was that the number 666 had been branded into her scalp.

NARRATOR: As irrational as Andrea's symptoms sounded at least one expert had a scientific term for her season. Cacodemonomania.

RESNICK: Cacodemonomania. It's literally believing one is possessed by a demon and it is a known phenomenon that occurs in people with religious delusions.

PURYEAR: She loved her children and the message she was getting from the TV, from her religion, was that she was a bad person. She was Satan.

RESNICK: Once she became psychotic, it tied in with her religious beliefs at the time. NARRATOR: At least some of those beliefs seemed to have been influenced by the writings of Michael Woroniecki. The preacher Rusty and Andrea once followed.

PURYEAR: The one that stands out in my mind the most is a pamphlet that showed a mother and her children and said something like, Jezebels are going to throw their children in the river and destroy them.

RESNICK: She believed that one son would become a serial killer. One son was going to become a mute homosexual prostitute, and she had these fantastic beliefs that each of her children was going to end up in some evil way and would literally go to hell.

R. YATES: I didn't know that someone's beliefs, someone's thoughts, you know, that they become delusional. That they are believing things that weren't true or even seeing or hearing things that weren't there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anyone tell you that you had some Satan in you?

A. YATES: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you saw some clues?

A. YATES: No. Just felt he was inside me giving me directions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What directions?

A. YATES: About harming the children.

RESNICK: I asked her, I said, do you believe you are possessed by a devil or the one and only Satan? And she said, the one and only Satan I believe was literally within me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

A. YATES: OK. Today's February 26th. Noah turns how old?

NOAH, OLDEST CHILD: Seven.

A. YATES: Seven. Yes.

RESNICK: The last one was her oldest son. He was strong and a big kid. He resisted most being drowned that he got his head above water and he said, like, mommy, I'll be good. As if he believed he was being punished by being drowned. And then she took each child and placed the child on their bed, the master bed in the master bedroom, and one of the children was a particularly good big brother, I believe it was John, and she took the baby, the 6-month-old baby girl, and put it in the crook of John's arm so he could look after her in the afterlife as he had been a good big brother during their lifetime together.

NARRATOR: It promised to be the trial of the century in Houston, Texas. There was no question regarding the basic facts. On the morning of June 20th, 2001, 36-year-old Andrea Yates systematically drowned all five of her children. Defense attorney George Parnham knew that his client's only chance was to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. But as the details emerged, the public outrage grew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us some room.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get back. Get back.

PARNHAM: The public opinion about Andrea was obviously negative to say the very least. People did not understand the issue of mental illness.

OWMBY: Overwhelmingly, the people were very harsh in their assessment. The community of psychiatric workers, doctors were horrified that we would prosecute someone who had a legitimate mental illness but that was a -- that was a minority.

NARRATOR: Andrea Yates' actions were certainly incomprehensible. But did that mean she was insane?

OWMBY: You can be mentally ill and the standard under the law is that if you know right from wrong, that's not a medical standard. That's a legal standard.

BELINDA HILL, DISTRICT COURT JUDGE (RET.): There's no legal definition for what's right or wrong. And the law tells us that if there's no legal definition then a juror is able to use the common, everyday meaning of those words.

NARRATOR: Whatever the legal arguments, the public ire was also stoked by the way Rusty Yates was reacting. Both to the murders and to the surrounding media circus.

R. YATES: The woman here is not the woman that killed my children. She obviously wasn't herself. I think that will come out.

You know, I'm just completely surprised that people think that, well, because I defend Andrea as being a wonderful mother that she shouldn't be punished, that somehow, you know, I'm condoning her actions. You know? Her actions were almost indescribably devastating to me and my family.

STUMPO: He took it upon himself like it was like some kind of badge of honor and he was on TV, giving interviews, and all kinds of stuff which was macabre and then at the funeral he actually had a slide show of his kids.

NARRATOR: The funeral took place one week after the murders and sealed the public's view of Rusty Yates.

PURYEAR: And I think people want to assign blame. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Who's at fault? And if you believe that Andrea Yates was mentally ill, then you say, OK, well, it wasn't her fault. She was sick. It must be Rusty's fault. I think what turns people off is that he smiled a lot. RESNICK: He didn't show the kind of emotion that was expected. And once he was kind of typecast as not showing enough emotion no matter how much he showed after that, that's how he was viewed.

NARRATOR: Rusty's demeanor so incensed to Houston community that some people believed he was complicit in the murders.

OWMBY: The Harris County District Attorney's Office received so many inquiries about whether he was also liable for the deaths of these children and if you talk to people on the street, there are a lot of people that will express that idea to you.

R. YATES: Did I do everything that I could and knew to do to help Andrea and protect our children and I'd say that's the case. I mean, I didn't -- I really didn't know much of what else to do. I mean, she was sick. We went to the doctor. You know? We followed the doctor's orders.

PURYEAR: No one ever said to him, you know, your children might die because of your wife's illness. Nobody said, you know, the risk is with postpartum psychosis that the children are in danger.

RESNICK: I personally did not see Rusty as such a bad guy. I think he cared deeply for his wife. He cared deeply for his children.

NARRATOR: In the end, the Rusty Yates controversy was simply a side show. His wife was the main event. And the state was going to try the case to the fullest extent of the law. Seeking nothing less than the death penalty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's going to say that Noah got his head up a couple of times. And that she was able to push him down and control him and force him under that water until he lost control of his body.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's always an unthinkable act. Psychiatrist have a name for it. Filicide. When a parent kills a child.

NARRATOR: Almost from the beginning, the state of Texas was determined to charge Andrea Yates with capital murder. The defense would enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

HILL: In my almost 16 years on the bench, the Andrea Yates case was the only one where that defense was actually asserted and litigated.

RESNICK: That's a small number of persons who are found excused because their mental illness is so severe it causes them either not to know what they're doing or not to know the wrongfulness of what they are doing.

PARNHAM: People often ask me, well, listen. Why didn't she kill herself instead of drowned herself? The kids would still be alive. The problem is she becomes more and more ill with each pregnancy. The sicker you become, the less alternatives are available to you. NARRATOR: While awaiting trial, Andrea Yates was placed in the jail's medical facility and treated for psychosis.

R. YATES: From the time of the tragedy to the time of the trial, she improved. I mean, to the point where she wasn't having hallucinations.

NARRATOR: On September 22nd, 2001, just three months and two days after the murders, Yates was deemed competent to stand trial. The prosecution planned to argue that Andrea's motive was to get back at her husband for perceived wrongs, like living in a bus, homeschooling and the inconveniences of a simpler lifestyle. The defense knew better than to bring Rusty into the equation.

PARNHAM: Had I gone after Rusty, as people wanted me to do, then the jury could be told by the prosecutor in summation or at the end, she in effect, by killing the kids, she was getting back at Rusty for the various things that he had done and would give her an ulterior motive.

NARRATOR: The trial began in February 2002. Both sides brought in preeminent psychiatrists to testify. Dr. Phillip Resnick led for the defense. Hi counterpart was Dr. Park Dietz, renowned for testifying in the John Hinckley case. Dietz was also a consultant on the hit series "Law & Order." On several points, the experts agreed.

RESNICK: We both agreed that she had a severe mental disease when she drowned her children. We both agreed she believed she was doing what was in the best interest of the children and we both agreed she knew what she was doing was against the law. Where we differed then was on whether, in spite of knowing it was against the law, she believes she was doing what was right for her children.

NARRATOR: The prosecution contended there was more method than madness.

OWMBY: She said Satan was telling her this and if you're a religious person and Satan is telling you to do something, you start out with the assumption that it's wrong, that it's bad conduct so starting from that simple proposition, we knew that she knew that it was wrong and she'd expressed that she knew it was wrong.

RESNICK: So Dr. Dietz testified that Mrs. Yates knew it was wrong, not just against the law, but against society and against God. That's pretty powerful testimony.

NARRATOR: Dietz took it one step further. And also presented a likely inspiration for Andrea Yates' actions. He testified that she had watched a "Law & Order" episode that week in which a woman to be free of her responsibilities drowned her children and got away with murder.

R. YATES: The show we almost always watched was "Law & Order" and the ones that she watched I watched with her, you know. And so, you know, I heard, you know, about that testimony. And I'm like, I don't think that happened. You know? NARRATOR: But there was nothing solid to refute Dietz's testimony and after three weeks of trial, the jury deliberated for just under four hours.

PARNHAM: The jury came back and I knew when I saw that jury what that verdict was going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury find the defendant Andrea Pia Yates guilty of capital murder as charged in the indictment.

PARNHAM: I was devastated.

R. YATES: Knowing how much Andrea loved our children and how much they loved her, and knowing that she would never have harmed them had she not been mentally ill, all right, I -- I view her and I know it's hard for people to see this, but I view her as a victim. I don't view her as a criminal.

NARRATOR: In the punishment phase of the trial, the jury sided with the defense and rejected the death penalty. Andrea Yates was sentenced to life in prison.

PARNHAM: Yes. I never thought about losing. I went back in the back with Andrea and she said, what happens now? And I said, don't worry, Andrea. You'll be fine. You know, patted her on the knee and then came back, and heard the rumbles in the courtroom about the testimony. The "Law & Order" testimony.

NARRATOR: The sentencing phase was barely over before questions arose about the Park Dietz testimony. Word was spreading that the "Law & Order" episode did not exist. Suddenly the defense had new hope.

PARNHAM: We were at the office looking through the scripts on the Internet trying to come up with titles of shows that could have reflected that a "Law & Order" show existed about a woman that drowned her kids and couldn't find any. Never did find the script.

NARRATOR: Suzanne O'Malley, one of the reporters covering the case, had written episodes for "Law & Order." She put Parnham in touch with the show's creator, Dick Wolf.

PARNHAM: And Dick Wolf said, Mr. Parnham, I can guarantee you I have great respect for Park Dietz but no such show ever aired. Nor had it ever been planned.

NARRATOR: Parnham immediately filed for a mistrial. The motion was denied.

STUMPO: What is the Park Dietz testimony have to do -- that has -- that had nothing to do with overturning this conviction? I mean, she got the idea from a TV show and the TV show never existed, so you're going to overturn the conviction of a person that killed five children? That's absurd.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

A. YATES: Say daddy? Mommy? Mommy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say mama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mama.

NARRATOR: On March 15th, 2002, Andrea Yates was sentenced the life in prison for the murder of her children. She was incarcerated at the Mountain View unit, a state psychiatric prison.

PURYEAR: In a hospital for the -- called for the criminally insane, you are locked in with people who have committed violent crimes and they're mentally ill. They're not places you want to be.

NARRATOR: Naturally, the defense was gunning for a reversal of the verdict. Among the many points of argument was the questionable testimony given by Park Dietz, lead psychiatrist for the prosecution.

PARNHAM: There's never been an episode that has aired on "Law & Order" involving the topic that Park Dietz testified about. And we confronted Park Dietz with that and he said he was mistaken. He must have been in error.

NARRATOR: The appeals process would take months of meticulous preparation for multiple arguments but in the end everything hinged on the Dietz testimony.

PARNHAM: We had 19 points of error and only one point was ever addressed and that was point number one and that was his testimony. And the case got reversed. So we started back to trial.

RESNICK: I thought it was great that Mrs. Yates would have another opportunity to have her case heard. Dr. Dietz in my view made an honest mistake.

NARRATOR: The reversal, though a major victory, was only the start. The defense team pressed for an outright dismissal of all charges arguing that a second trial would constitute double jeopardy.

Finally, in January 2005, some three and a half years after the original conviction, the Texas State Supreme Court issued an opinion. Double jeopardy did not apply but Andrea Yates would be granted a new trial.

KING: Tonight, she drowned her five children. Was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison. But recently a Texas appeals court overturned Andrea Yates' conviction.

NARRATOR: Pending the new trial, the defense succeed in having Yates moved from the Mountain View prison unit to Rusk State Hospital.

KING: How's she being treated?

R. YATES: On the whole, I think they've treated her pretty well.

NARRATOR: For the defense trial prep included community outreach. They did all they could to educate the public and change perceptions of both Andrea Yates and mental illness.

PARNHAM: There were six victims in this case and one was Andrea herself because of mental illness.

PURYEAR: By the second trial, there had been research article and talks and it became much more in the public vernacular, particularly postpartum depression.

NARRATOR: In June 2006, five years to the month after the tragedy, Andrea Yates' second trial commenced. The defense kept their arguments very specific.

PARNHAM: We focused on wrongfulness. Mental health and wrongfulness and postpartum issues. Wrongfulness more so in the first, more so than in the first trial. We were learning.

HILL: I think the defense felt that because of the time that had passed perhaps people were more sensitive to the issue.

OWMBY: By the time we had the second trial, I think that if there was a measurable opinion, I think it had swung to, like, maybe neutral. And neutral in the sense that she should be convicted. She should go to jail but the "tie her behind a car and drag her to the streets" crowd had gone away.

NARRATOR: After a month of testimony, the jury deliberated for 13 hours over three days.

PARNHAM: The jury after three days of deliberation wanted to see the pictures of the children. And about 30 minutes later, we had two buzzers. And they had reached a verdict. And some of the jurors were crying and the reason they asked for the pictures, they took two minutes in silence of each child in memory of that child's legacy.

I thought that was probably the most powerful moment that I have experienced in the courtroom in 45 years of doing this. You know.

HILL: The court has been advised that the jury has reached a verdict.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And now the jury must decide. Did Yates know right from wrong when she drowned her five children in the family bathtub?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All rise for the jury, please. The court has been advised that the jury has reached a verdict. We the jury find the defendant Andrea Pia Yates not guilty -- not guilty -- not guilty by reason of insanity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 15?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 37?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 52?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

NARRATOR: It had been five years, one month, and six days since the tragedy.

R. YATES: We're all, you know, thrilled with the verdict. You know, last time the judge said, you know, find the defendant guilty, and we just thought she left out the word not, you know, and this time we heard it. So we're happy.

NARRATOR: Andrea Yates was placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of State Health Services. She currently resides at Kerrville State Hospital. There is no timetable for her release.

OWMBY: I don't think that any judge will ever sign a paper that says Andrea Yates can be completely free from supervision.

PARNHAM: I don't think Andrea believes she will ever be free. She lives with the memory of her children. She misses them terribly.

PURYEAR: This didn't happen to Andrea Yates because she's an evil criminal, bad person that needs to be killed. This happened to Andrea Yates because she has a biologic medical illness called psychosis. We don't understand it very well. We can't predict who is going to get it and why.

R. YATES: I can forgive her. And in fact, in many respects I've never blamed her. But yet I could never live with her again.

NARRATOR: Rusty Yates divorced Andrea after the first trial. He enrolled in law school and is now remarried with a young son. He remains in contact with Andrea.

R. YATES: I can say that coming to a decision to divorce Andrea was really difficult decision. And it took me probably more time than it should have. But I finally came to the understanding that there is a difference between forgiveness and consequences.

PARNHAM: I talked to her, Andrea, probably four times a week. I long ago crossed the line from professionalism to personal involvement. And she is -- she is a daughter, basically. And that's the way I treat Andrea.

PURYEAR: George Parnham and I and the Mental Health Association of Houston and some other people started the Yates Children's Memorial Fund in honor of the five Yates children who are the real tragedy of this story.

R. YATES: Ours was an extreme case. You know, we lost our family, and Andrea was charged with capital murder and it was a big case because she didn't get adequate mental health care treatment. So from that facet of my life, you know, I'm doing my best to try to redirect and say move in that direction to where I can help mentally ill people.

A. YATES: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.

A. YATES: How are you today? How many is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four.

A. YATES: Four?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, four.

PARNHAM: I think if we can take the Andrea Yates, the generic Andrea Yates, the whole story of her kids, and we can move forward in the area of mental health care, I think we will have accomplished a lot.

NARRATOR: Not everyone agrees.

STUMPO: And one of the things I want to do is every June 20th, I wanted to send her a postcard of her kids, wherever she was. But I says what does that solve? That doesn't do anything for me. And it certainly doesn't do anything for that woman. So I didn't do that. I wished I had a third trial.

RESNICK: I find her quite sympathetic, and not only do I think that she is not criminally responsible, but the fact that she has to live with what she has done and live childless and so forth, that's the tragedy in its own right.

NARRATOR: In the eyes of the state, Andrea Yates is now simply a patient. She is no longer considered a criminal. Only Andrea knows if she can ever forgive herself for her actions.