When Mental Illness and the Justice System Meet: The Yates Case

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Conflicting expert testimonies have thickened the plot at the murder trial of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who is charged with drowning her five children in a bathtub.

Dr. Mohammad Saeed, the psychiatrist who examined Yates just two days before the drownings, testified yesterday that he saw no evidence that Yates was psychotic just before the murders. Earlier in the day, Dr. Ellen Allbritton who had examined Yates previously, testified that Yates "had obviously been ill for quite some time."

"When I walked in the room and saw her, I pretty much knew this was someone who needed to be in the hospital," said Allbritton, testifying for the defense as the third week of testimony in Yates' murder trial got under way. "She looked mentally ill."

No one doubts that Andrea Yates drowned her children. The only outstanding question is whether she knew the difference between right and wrong when she committed the murder.

The conflicting expert testimonies demonstrate the difficult questions that are raised when the mentally ill break the law. This hour, what defines justice when the perpetrator is mentally ill?


Richard Bonnie, Director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia

Liz Torres, Psychologist with McLean Hospital

This program aired on March 5, 2002.


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