- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

On the morning of Wednesday, June 20, an emotionally troubled Andrea Pia Yates held each of her five children under water in the family bathtub until their bodies went limp. Then, after committing the unthinkable, Mrs. Yates called her husband, Russell, at work and told him what she had done. She then called police and, when they arrived, told them, "I killed my children." Ever since, all manner of folks have been trying to pry open the windows to the mind of Mrs. Yates, including women-libbers and advocates for the mentally ill. This week, prosecutors and defense attorneys began trying to do the same with potential jurors, who will weigh Mrs. Yates' guilt or innocence amid their personal feelings about capital punishment. Many have already made up their minds. In a sense, the Yates case is essentially being boiled down to a battle between the law and morality.

To be sure, the facts and the law are clear enough. Mrs. Yates, 37, admitted killing her children, and the state leveled capital murder charges. Later, a jury found her fit to stand trial.

It did not take long for the case to acquire various ideological dimensions, and we will certainly see some of them rehearsed in the course of the trial. Some folks are of the mind that she's guilty as all get out. But, they say, Mrs. Yates is a poster child for post-partum depression a victim, if you will, of her (and her husband's) decision to have five children (and more in the future) and to home-school them. Some will be asking questions about the role of Mr. Yates. Could he have done more, especially since his wife had a history of mental problems and had been released from the hospital less than a month before committing these heinous acts against her own flesh and blood? Precisely, what did he know and when did he know it?

The fact remains, however, that Mr. Yates is not the one on trial. It was his wife who sealed their children's fate. A jury must now rule on hers.


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