The jury in the second Andrea Yates' trial did the right thing. They found her not guilty by reason of insanity in the drowning deaths of her five small children. People will rage over this verdict. People will say she was a murderer. People will want punishment because those children were innocent and adorable and young. And because the crime was so shocking. People will argue that Andrea Yates knew what she was doing.
But it was clear to me from the moment the 42-year-old Texas mother first appeared in court five years ago that Andrea Yates was nuts. Out of her mind. I have never seen a mother look dead.
Scratch a mother and if she's honest, she will tell you there are moments. Horrible moments when she was so sleep-deprived and exhausted and overwhelmed that she wanted to throw her babies against the wall. Then just as she was ready to lose it someone intervened. A husband. A babysitter. A friend. An astute ob-gyn who could see the telltale signs and made sure she got treatment. But Andrea Yates never had a chance. No one intervened. No one listened. She never got the mental health care she so desperately needed. Like all mothers in this culture she was expected to be a saint.
Yates was by all accounts a good mother. Even though she was left alone day after day with five children under the age of 7. Even though she suffered from post-partum depression after at least one of the births of her children. Even though she was telling her husband she was hearing demons. He continued to allow her to dress them, feed them, and play with them. Home-school them. Alone. Personally I would have lasted in that nut house about five minutes. Perhaps this explains why it took the jury only an hour to reach its verdict.
As for Randy Yates, the self-described Christian deserves at least some of the blame. He was the worst kind of father. Detached. Judgmental. Unfeeling. I remember him saying on Larry King or reading in some news account that in the throes of her distress he advised his mentally ill wife to pray. I am all for the power of prayer, but that's a little like telling a woman with breast cancer to pray in lieu of seeing an oncologist.
Randy Yates has since divorced Andrea. He has also remarried. His new bride is blonde and young and lovely. I just hope to God she doesn't have children.