February 22, 2002

Serious Topic Of The Week: Andrea Yates

Serious Topic Of The Week: Andrea Yates

My friend Leah started a topic on the message board I go to regarding whether or not Andrea Yates should be executed for her actions. In case you've been living in a cave for the past few months, Andrea Yates is the mother in Texas who drowned her 5 kids in the bathtub because she was "suffering from extended postpartum depression." And in case you're unfamiliar with pregnancies, the clinical definition of postpartum depression according to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine is "a mood disorder that begins after childbirth and usually lasts beyond six weeks."

It's hard...I guess because I've never had a kid it's difficult for me to even fathom being so insane from extended postpartum depression that you'd drown all 5 of your small children.

First and foremost I don't really buy into the argument of insanity as a blanket defense. I feel like if someone KNOWS the consequences of their actions and that their actions are wrong they are sane enough to be held accountable for their actions. People who do what Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Charles Manson did can't have all their bats in the belfry but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be held responsible for their crimes.

My gut says there's no denying she had to possess some degree of sickness but the question is did she know the difference between right and wrong? I feel like she did know...if you've ever tried to wash a child you know how difficult it can be. They're a lot stronger than you think. So imagine these kids and the fight they must have put up once they realized what their own mother was intending to do. It must have required quite some determination to keep them underwater long enough to die. Plus the last one she had to chase through the house and drag back to the bathroom.

I know people like to talk rehabilitation...but I don't think her "illness" impeded her ability to judge right from wrong. It may have affected her ability to make decisions but I think she knew what she was doing was morally wrong. A mother is supposed to protect her children. Those strangers who commit heinous acts against children are admitted by all to be monsters...so what does that make a mother who does it to her own children?

It's a sad situation because even her husband and her family are standing by her, so she can't have been this horrible person prior to what she did. But I'm sure many murderers were once good people.

My feeling is that she knew what she was doing was wrong and she should be held accountable for her actions. I doubt she'll be executed since feminists and anti-death penalty people seem to really be playing up the post-partum depression angle. If the jury convicts her and sentences her to death they'll be labeled "sexist" and "unsympathetic" to women's issues. I know I myself sound relatively unsympathetic but I believe we are a nation of people making excuses. If I was molested as a child it does not make it justifiable for me to turn around and molest a child.

If I could really have my way, I would put her husband on trial too. Because he knew she had a history of mental illness and he still left her alone with their kids. The way they describe her behavior prior to the killings it seems both he and his mother knew she was mentally ill. So he's partly to blame as well, just like the parent who leaves a gun in an unsecure place and their child has an accident with it. Isn't that endangering the welfare of a minor?

But all this is guesswork. The only 5 witnesses to her crime aren't around to tell anyone what her state of mind was. Even if she was running around screaming "I'm going to kill you little brats" who's to know?

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