- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003

HOUSTON — The Andrea Yates murder case is again the subject of a Houston grand jury investigation, with the panel this time delving into testimony given by a prosecution witness in the trial of the woman convicted of drowning her five children in 2001.

The testimony in question came from Dr. Park Dietz, who has been an expert witness in many high-profile murder cases, including those of Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Kaczynski and Ted Bundy.

Dr. Dietz was scheduled to appear before the grand jury Thursday but canceled because of a previous business commitment in the Seattle area, said his Houston attorney, Michael Hinton.

At issue is Dr. Dietz’s testimony during the Yates trial describing a situation on the television series “Law and Order,” which depicted a woman acquitted of killing her children. Dr. Dietz has been a consultant for that popular show for several years.

During his closing argument, prosecutor Joe Owmby suggested to the jury that Yates probably had witnessed that show and had been influenced by the acquittal, which, he opined, could have given her “a way out of her trapped marriage.”

Defense attorney George Parnham had elicited the comments from Dr. Dietz during cross-examination as he probed the consultant’s background.

A jury rejected Mr. Parnham’s insanity defense and found Yates guilty of capital murder. It was not until two days later that the defense discovered that no such “Law and Order” segment existed.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys counseled with Dr. Dietz and read a statement about the error to jurors as they were deciding Yates’ punishment. They gave her life in prison.

Assistant District Attorneys Owmby and Kaylynn Wiliford testified Thursday before the grand jury but refused comment later.

The prosecution says the Dietz statement was “an honest mistake.” The defense contends the Dietz testimony, considered powerful by both sides, might have had an effect and an impact on jurors that a simple “I’m sorry” could not surmount.

Mr. Parnham said he knew nothing of the grand jury probe, but had told reporters that the Dietz testimony would be central to his client’s appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

“I was troubled by the testimony,” he said yesterday. “I’ve made no secret of that.”

Dr. Dietz was paid $50,000 for his testimony.

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