Jury selection begins for mother accused of drowning her five children in bathtub

Tuesday, September 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Jury selection started Tuesday for a proceeding to decide if a woman accused of drowning her five children in their bathtub is fit to stand trial.

The process had been delayed for a week because of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Andrea Yates, 37, is accused of two counts of capital murder for the deaths of three of her five children at their home in June.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has said his office will seek the death penalty. Texas prosecutors typically forgo multiple capital murder charges since only one conviction is generally needed for the maximum penalty.

Yates' attorneys contend she is innocent by reason of insanity.

When testimony begins, likely Wednesday, the jury won't consider Yates' innocence or guilt but only whether she understands the case against her and can consult with her attorneys about it.

University of Texas law professor George Dix has said it doesn't take much for a defendant to be declared competent to stand trial.

``If they can understand the functions of the various individuals in the trial process, we determine they can understand the proceedings,'' he said.

Another jury will determine her degree of responsibility and whether she was insane at the time of the killings. If she is found incompetent, jurors must determine if it is likely that she will regain competence.

In an attempt to reach competency, the state can commit Yates to a mental institution for up to 18 months.

Police say Andrea Yates admitted killing her children on June 20. The four youngest children _ John, 5; Paul; 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, 6 months _ were found wet on a bed under a sheet. Noah, 7, was dead in the bathtub.

Yates' lawyers have submitted hundreds of pages of medical records detailing her treatment for depression, postpartum depression and showing two suicide attempts after the birth of her fourth child.