Defense opens case for Texas mother accused of drownings

Saturday, February 23, 2002

HOUSTON -- Andrea Yates moaned, cried and pulled at her hair the morning after she was arrested for drowning her five children, a jail psychiatrist testified Friday in defense of the Houston woman.

The testimony came as Yates' lawyers began making their case to jurors that Yates is innocent of capital murder by reason of insanity.

Dr. Melissa Ferguson said Yates had to be given a sedative while she was being assessed in the county jail's psychiatric unit June 21.

Before Ferguson began testifying Friday, prosecutors finished their case by calling Dr. Harminder S. Narula, an assistant medical examiner who testified about his autopsy of the oldest Yates child, 7-year-old Noah.

Narula said Noah's head, arms and legs had recent bruising likely caused by someone holding him down. Some autopsy photos were shown to the jury Friday but not to Yates or anyone else in the courtroom.

Other medical examiners testified Thursday about John, 5, and Mary, 6 months.

Yates is on trial only for those three deaths. Prosecutors have said she could be tried later for the deaths of the other two children, Paul, 3, and Luke, 2.

On Thursday, the jury heard a tape-recorded June 20 confession. On the tape, Yates says she intended to suffocate the life from her children, and she details for Mehl how she chased her oldest son, Noah, before forcing him into the same water she used to drown her four younger children.

"How long have you been having thoughts about wanting, or not wanting to, but drowning your children?" Sgt. Eric Mehl asked during the interview.

"Probably since I realized I have not been a good mother to them," Yates responded.

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