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Andrea Yates Sobs in Court During Video

June 28, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) _ Andrea Yates sobbed as prosecutors played a crime-scene videotape in court Tuesday showing her 7-year-old son floating dead in a bathtub and the bodies of her four younger children laid out on a bed.

The video also showed toys in the yard and a baby swing hanging from a tree outside the suburban home on June 20, 2001, the day Yates killed her five children. She watched that part intently but looked down as the camera moved inside.

In the bathroom, it showed 7-year-old Noah floating face-down. Yates looked up briefly and began to cry. At least five jurors also wiped their eyes before state District Judge Belinda Hill called for a midmorning break.

The murder trial is Yates’ second in the drowning of her children. Her 2002 conviction was overturned last year because of erroneous testimony.

As in her first trial, Yates has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If the jury agrees, she could be committed to a state hospital, with periodic hearings to determine whether she should be released. A guilty verdict would mean life in prison.

The defense says Yates suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and did not know that drowning the children was wrong.

Prosecutors say her actions belie those claims, saying Yates waited until after her husband, Rusty, had gone to work and before her mother-in-law arrived to help out before she drowned Noah, 5-year-old John, 3-year-old Paul, 2-year-old Luke and 6-month-old Mary.

Both sides are expected to call most of the same witnesses as in the first trial.

Tuesday afternoon, a woman who briefly shared a cell with Yates testified that Yates once told her that her 6-month-old daughter was the easiest to drown and that she got mad when Noah fought her.

``(She said) ... once they’re in the water, it takes a long time for them to stop moving,″ said Felicia Doe, 28, who was in Yates’ cell block in the Harris County Jail for about a week in 2002.

The defense during cross-examination tried to highlight possible problems in Doe’s testimony.

She testified that Yates told her that she dressed the dead children in ``their Sunday best″ and that Yates referred to her then-husband as Russell.

But the youngsters were left in their pajamas, and Yates in a police interview after the slayings called her husband Rusty.

Doe also acknowledged lying previously about unrelated matters.

Jurors also heard a detective’s taped interview with Yates a few hours after the drownings. In a monotone voice, Yates answered Sgt. Eric Mehl’s questions mostly with a quick, flat ``yes″ or ``no.″

She said all the children struggled ``a couple of minutes″ as she drowned them. She said that Noah struggled the most violently and even escaped from the tub, but that ``I got him.″

Asked why she drowned them, Yates replied: ``I guess I realized I had not been a good mother to them.″

``What makes you say that?″ Mehl asked.

``They were not developing correctly,″ Yates said.

Prosecutors say they will rest their case Wednesday.

Yates is being tried only in the deaths of Mary, John and Noah, a common practice in cases of multiple slayings.

Update hourly