- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2001

DALLAS — Attorneys for a woman accused of drowning her five children seven weeks ago in her bathtub entered a plea of mental incompetence yesterday, hours before prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty.
State District Judge Belinda Hill said she would order a competency hearing later.
Andrea Pia Yates, 37, stood stoically in a Houston courtroom as George Parham, one of her attorneys, told the judge: "Your honor, Mrs. Yates pleads not guilty by reason of insanity."
Mrs. Yates, somewhat thinner, her hair cascading to her lower back, uttered nary a word. Nor did she glance at her husband, Russell, who sat grimly a few yards away.
Mrs. Yates admitted drowning Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and 6-month-old Mary in a fit of depression the morning of June 20. She called police and her husband, then confessed to detectives who rushed to the Yates home in suburban Houston.
When they arrived, officers found the four youngest children — their bodies still wet — lined up on a bed, covered with a sheet. Noah, the eldest, she told police, fought the hardest and was the last to die. He was found lifeless in the tub.
Mrs. Yates' husband, family and friends said she suffered from postpartum depression, a condition worsened in March by the death of her father.
Prosecutors have said that a county doctor, ordered by the court to evaluate Mrs. Yates' competency, believes she is legally sane. Results of that report were argued in court yesterday, with the defense demanding to question the doctor in a competency hearing and saying that defense psychiatrists would conclude otherwise.
Judge Hill ordered a gag order on all participants, and the effect was apparent yesterday. Both sides said they feared leaks to the media.
"We're going to try this case in here," the judge said.
After the hearing, Judge Hill authorized Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal to release a short statement regarding his prosecutorial intentions.
"The Harris County district attorney announced that he would have his prosecutors file the paperwork necessary to make the death penalty an option in the case of State of Texas v. Andrea Yates," said the statement. "District Attorney Rosenthal said that he believes that the citizens of Harris County ought to be able to consider the full range of punishment in this case, including the death penalty."
Mr. Yates, trying to be helpful to a clutch of reporters outside the court, said he had visited his wife several times since the slayings, then added, "I can't say anything more."
When asked what was in an envelope he handed Mr. Parham before the hearing convened, Mr. Yates replied: "Well, he doesn't work for free."
Mrs. Yates has been charged with only three of the five deaths. She was indicted by a grand jury on July 30 for the deaths of the two eldest children. Last week, another jury indicted her for the death of the baby girl.
No one connected with the case would estimate on a trial date, but court followers generally insisted it would not be until at least November.

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