Two jurors selected in Andrea Yates' trial; state may not seek death penalty, prosecutor says

Wednesday, January 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ A woman on trial for drowning her five children in the bathtub likely could avoid the prospect of the death penalty if she accepts responsibility for the act, a prosecutor said.

Jury selection began Tuesday in the murder trial of Andrea Yates, 37, who has confessed to police that she drowned her children, ranging in age from 6 months to 7 years, but pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. Her attorneys say she suffers from a severe form of postpartum depression.

Prosecutor Joe Owmby said the state could reconsider its decision to seek the death penalty if more evidence were revealed.

``Even at this stage for example, the defendant could choose to accept criminal responsibility which would be an additional mitigating factor and would I believe, very likely, call the state to recommend a life sentence,'' the prosecutor said.

Jury questioning was scheduled to resume Wednesday after 21 people were eliminated and two women, including one with a 3-year-old daughter, were selected from the 60-person pool.

One of the women chosen said the trial will be tough.

``I just think it's tragic for everyone involved, regardless of the outcome,'' the woman told prosecution and defense attorneys. ``It's not going to be easy for anyone if they do their jobs correctly.''

The jurors will have to decide whether Yates is innocent or guilty of two counts of capital murder. If found guilty, punishment would be determined in a second phase of the trial.

The women chosen as jurors are both married and have degrees in psychology.

The first woman selected said she hadn't watched television news reports of the Yates case, which has generated international attention, and had read only one newspaper article about it.

The second, a middle-aged woman with no children, admitted she did not want to serve but felt it was her civic duty. Both women said they do not use their psychology training in their chosen professions.

Jury selection is expected to take four to five weeks, and testimony is not expected to begin until mid-February.