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Crimes are never good. Even if someone does it inadvertently without the intent to harm, it is still always a horrible outcome. The case of Andrea Yates is one of the most notorious murder cases in the contemporary U.S. Based on results from the case, I felt it was a combination of negligence on everyone’s part-that should have supported her–regarding the warning signs of one of the most lethal psychiatric symptoms (psychosis), Because of the rarity of her psychotic condition and the abhorring results if not treated, many Americans, particularly women, will judge women like Andrea Yates, absent of any empathy for her, as she is suffering two things now: the death of her children and her mental problems that likely caused her to commit murder. . I believe that the jury’s non-guilty verdict was a rational and moral decision because Yates never had the support she needed coupled with the fact that I don’t believe she knew what she was doing.
What the general public should reiterate is that by comprehending this catastrophic illness Yates had, it in no possible manner condones the behaviors implemented as a consequence of the illness. Andrea Yates’ first encounter with a psychiatric diagnosis was in July 1999, two years before the killings. Her psychiatric state got worse quickly. She was encountering symptoms of severe major depression and then a little later, during a week hospitalization at Methodist Hospital Psychiatric Unit, she was diagnosed as possessing extreme depressive disorder, intermittently with psychotic features (Mydland, 2008). This is dismaying in itself. Her first symptoms of psychosis occurred long before the killings (and after) that occurred in 2001. When she was examined by a psychiatrist named Dr. Starbranch and Dr. Rics, their findings with respect to their analyses uttered that the initiation of her depression began about six weeks prior along with psychotic symptoms (Mydland, 2008). Again, shortly later in the same year in 1999, and in another psychiatric hospital, leading psychiatrist Dr. Melissa Ferguson (2007) gave her testimony that in her opinion, Yates was suffering from psychosis.
I find it very alarming that knowing, in retrospect, that Andrea Yates progressively and unconsciously built a strong record for her mental problems without anyone noticing her condition deteriorating and the neglect of who should be supporting her. Her mental history is enormous. Only briefly proceeding after the first child’s birth, she had her first psychiatric symptoms of hallucinations about stabbing something with a knife, coupled by acoustic delusions of Satan speaking to her. Suzanne O’Malley, a proficient journalist, read in detail of Andrea’s medical records. What she witnessed were a plethora of mal-diagnoses, exiguous treatment, incorrect medications, and what appeared to be a more pharmaceutical treatment than a clinical one. Indeed, O’Malley observed in Andrea’s record indicated she had been psychotic and manic before and after she drowned her children (O’Malley, 2004).
Yates, who confessed to killing her five children, had in prior taken anti-psychotic medications which are used for psychosis and hearing voices. Yates had, prior to the killings, been treated with anti-psychotic medications, such as Haldol. She took this in conjunction with an anti-depressant. One doctor noted this drug combination was very alarming (Ackerman, 2001), presumably indicating she was experiencing mental symptoms so severe she needed anti-psychotic medication. Dr. Lucy Puryear had made a bold statement when she said that, “Haldol is prescribed for psychotic patients hearing voices or thinking delusional.” (Ackerman, 2001) The point is that Yates had serious mental incapacities which inhibited her cognitive abilities to make good judgments. She also had other inhibited mental abilities. Dr. Dan Williams (2006) stated (regarding Yates) that “[post-partum psychosis] is characterized by homicidal and suicidal impulses, hallucinations, delusions, disorganized and bizarre thinking.” Williams’ professional statement raises a huge doubt on any other thesis regarding the killings.
Her mental history contains a plethora of hospitalizations for post-partum depression. Later, she was hospitalized for having psychotic features. She has a thorough record of psychiatric-induced hospitalizations, two being attempts to commit suicide. At that time, people were turning a blind eye apparently. The biggest argument in her defense is that long before drowning her kids, she had been diagnosed with postpartum depression with psychotic features and schizophrenia. It may or may not matter if she took medication for the illnesses, because some medications can worsen the conditions they treat. Dr. Dan Williams stated that post-partum psychosis is “rare,” but extremely lethal. Dr. Williams (2006) carefully mentioned that post-partum psychosis is “characterized [by potential lethal side effects, such as] homicidal and suicidal impulses, hallucinations, delusions, disorganized and bizarre thinking.” (Williams, 2006) The treatments that Andrea received for her mental illnesses were a combination of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics.
In 2002, Andrea Yates was convicted of murder for three of the deaths of her five children who were found drowned in her home in 2001 (Spitz, 2006). In April 2005, her conviction was overturned on appeal because of an error in the testimony of an expert witness for the prosecution in the first trial (Montaldo, 2010). In March 2002, a jury rejected Yates’ plead for insanity defense for her exoneration. They rejected it but did not seek the death penalty. However, this initial verdict around January 2005 was reversed because a psychiatrist named Dr. Park Dietz, who was from California-also a witness for the prosecution–admitted he lied in his testimony. Thus, the guilty verdict was thrown out and a re-trial was implemented. Then, later in January 2006, she was not convicted and was released based on insanity. Essentially, the prosecution’s argument was that Yates was mentally cognizant and therefore knew what she was doing was wrong. The defense’s side was that she was nearly insane, inhibiting her ability to function in life, such as making bizarre judgments.
The warning signs were luminous regarding Yates’ psychiatric condition, which out of negligence and plain stupidity, turned deadly. Years prior to this obscene crime, Yates was slowly deteriorating, juggling between postpartum depression and psychosis. Yate’s state of affair was implemented in the M’Naghten Rules, which is nothing more than an attempt to rationalize the mentality of the criminal in question in terms of law towards mentally ill defendants. This murder could, should, and would have been prevented if Yates had any real support or competent doctors. One of the earliest warnings regarding Yate’s deadly condition came in July 1999. Yates had a breakdown in which she tried killing herself twice and more importantly, she later was hospitalized with postpartum psychosis (McLellan, 2006). The initial psychiatrist of Andrea Yates, Dr. Eileen Starbranch, under oath, proclaimed that any children beyond Yate’s four she already had, “would send her in guaranteed psychosis.”
One of Yates’ doctors, Dr. Saeed, out of concern of Yates’ condition, once proclaimed and made it a bold point to Andrea’s husband not to abandon his patient (wife) unattended. Despite these early warnings from licensed psychiatrists, Andrea had another child. Then Yates’ conceived their fifth child one month after her discharge. Yates has a huge history of hospitalizations for psychosis and post-partum depression, in which the postpartum psychosis part is extremely dangerous. They knew this for years before she drowned her children in a bathtub. Do I agree with her insanity plea and exoneration from jail? Yes, I do agree with the decision that she was so mentally incompetent; coupling with the fact that she had very little to no support for her issues, which could have prevented this.
Instead, no one did anything, and as a result, she committed a crime. Since Yates had a notorious history of psychosis, and despite what her initial doctor had warned about, it is unfathomable how one can still put the blame on Yates. Any doctor who is reputable would understand to treat psychosis seriously. She had a long history of psychosis and negligence. Why convict her when years went by that she sought treatment, and people turned a blind eye. The defense’s expert witness, who was a licensed doctor, proclaimed that she was indeed psychotic surrounding the death of her children. Moreover, after the period of the killings, a newsletter termed Perilous Times, written by the Woronieckis in 2000, was inserted as support into court for her in the trial because they aided in establishing the core stipulations that underlie her psychotic delusions.
She had severe mental illnesses which were long observable and treatable, yet no one took the proper measures to follow that protocol. A psychological intervention could have been done years before this happened. No one in this world can rationally say that it was all of her fault that her children died by her own hands. She has a debilitated history of extreme mental illness. Her biggest problem and most likely the culprit influencing the killings was her going into psychosis, which is defined as, “losing touch with reality.” When you go into psychosis and “lose base with reality,” the things you do sometimes you do not realize you’re doing them. Or, your poor judgment as a result of the psychosis makes you do erratic things (Gelder, 2005). Psychosis is probably the worst psychiatric symptom of a mental illness that one can undergo.
People in psychosis don’t know what they are doing, where they are, why they are there, and do detrimental things when it’s really the result of a chemical imbalance. Moreover, the brevity of the psychiatric rating scale has conjured the level of 18 symptom constructs of psychosis. Some of these symptoms are life threatening or just overall dangerous. Being hostile, being apprehensive about things, hallucinations and delusions, grandiosity, etc. (Overall & Gorham, 1962). Mr. Yates did not talk with the doctor about his treatment plans, and Mr. Yates went against the doctor’s medical advice and left his wife isolated with her children just prior to the drowning’s (Lezon, 2006).
But this still does not mean that she killed them because Mr. Yates did not watch the kids all the time. Dr. Saeed, amongst many doctors including the defense’s expert witness, had diagnosed Andrea as psychotic. It is so obvious that the neglect of Andrea’s husband, friends, doctors, family, and other would-be supporters took nothing seriously. But Mr. Yates made a good point. He stated that Dr. Saeed, as a licensed psychiatrist, was responsible for recognizing and properly treating his wife’s psychosis, not a medically untrained lay man like himself (King, 2002). My contentions for advocating her verdict must note a few things. The doctor and Mr. Yates pointed fingers and did not give Andrea the proper treatment and support she needed long before the killings. Lastly, regarding her mental history and her acquittal, I will state that her mental history contains a plethora of diagnoses from multiple doctors that she had an illness that could inhibit her normal mode of functioning, even causing lethal repercussions. This is enough to cast a reasonable doubt that she was in a mental state where she knew right from wrong.
I believe that the jury’s non-guilty verdict was a rational decision. This is because Yates never had the support she needed for a horrific diagnosis, which was predominantly psychosis. It is one of the worst and most dangerous psychiatric symptoms in mental health. Her bouts of psychosis occurred long before the killings. Her doctors diagnosed her psychotic and yet no one took it seriously. Even up to the murder, no one would help her. She could not help herself if she was in psychosis. That is what support is for and I in a sense feel empathetic for Andrea just because I can relate to her mental illnesses
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