PROSECUTION will seek death penalty in case of woman accused of drowning her five children

Thursday, August 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Prosecutors plan to pursue the death penalty against a woman who allegedly drowned her five children in a bathtub despite questions about her mental state.

Andrea Pia Yates, 37, said nothing in a brief court session Wednesday, but her lawyer entered a plea of innocent by reason of insanity on her behalf.

Hours later, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal told the judge he would seek ``the full range of punishment in this case, including the death penalty.''

Yates' attorney declined to comment on the decision. The next phase in her case is a hearing to determine if she is mentally competent to stand trial on two charges of capital murder. District Judge Belinda Hill said she would schedule the competency hearing, to be held before a jury, within the next two weeks.

Yates faces one count of capital murder for the June drowning deaths of her two oldest children, Noah, 7, and John, 5. A grand jury indicted her last week on a second charge of capital murder for the death of 6-month-old daughter Mary.

Yates also has admitted killing sons Paul, 3, and Luke, 2, police said. In Texas, prosecutors typically forgo multiple capital murder charges since only one conviction is generally needed for the maximum penalty.

Prosecutors said a court-ordered evaluation has determined Yates is competent to stand trial, but her attorneys have asked to review evidence used by the doctor.

Her attorney, George Parnham, said the defense team has been unable to discuss the case with Yates. Mental health experts have told the attorneys that she remains in a psychotic state.

Her husband, Russell Yates, has said his wife suffered from postpartum depression after the births of their two youngest children, and her condition worsened after her father died.