Precinct 333

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Andrea Yates Gets An New Trial

Two of the big murder trials of the last five years have come from killings within a few miles of my home – the Clara Harris and Andrea Yates cases. Both recently filed appeals of their convictions, and while the Harris appeal was denied, the appellate court has ordered a new trial for Yates.

Yates' lawyers had argued at a hearing last month before a three-judge panel of the First Court of Appeals in Houston that psychiatrist Park Dietz was wrong when he mentioned an episode of the TV show "Law & Order" involving a woman found innocent by reason of insanity for drowning her children.

After jurors found Yates guilty, attorneys in the case and jurors learned no such episode existed.

"We conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that Dr. Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury," the court ruled. "We further conclude that Dr. Dietz's false testimony affected the substantial rights of appellant."

I’ve sort of expected this ruling for some time, although I don’t think the erroneous testimony substantially impacted the jury verdict. After all, she immediately called the police and confessed to killing her children. There is no doubt that she did the crime, only the question of the level of responsibility she bears under Texas law. I think the court has erred in ordering a new trial here.


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