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Yates sentenced to life in prison

Friday, March 15, 2002

HOUSTON (AP) -- After less than an hour of deliberations, a jury spared Andrea Yates from death row Friday and sentenced her instead to life in prison for drowning her children in the bathtub.

The 37-year-old housewife will have to serve at least 40 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Yates stood while the verdict was read, her attorney's arm around her. Her attorneys smiled, but there was no apparent reaction from her.

The same jury that took less than four hours to reject her claim of insanity and convict her of murder Tuesday returned the sentence with similar swiftness, after prosecutors made a less-than-forceful push for the death penalty.

"Those children never had a chance and you need to think about those children," district attorney Kaylynn Williford said in closing arguments of the penalty phase. But avoiding a forceful call for Yates' death, she said: "Whatever decision you make, the state will accept."

To impose the death penalty, the jury needed to decide unanimously that Yates was a future danger and that there were no mitigating circumstances against executing her. The jury answered no to the first question and therefore did not have to answer the second.

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