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Andrea Yates, the 37-year-old housewife who admitted she drowned her five children, was convicted of murder Tuesday by a jury that rejected her claim of insanity in just 3 1/2 hours. Yates, who could be sentenced to death or to life in prison, showed little reaction as she stood between her attorneys during the verdict. In the audience, her husband, Russell, muttered “oh, God” and clasped his head with both hands. The penalty phase begins today. Yates was convicted of two charges of capital murder. The charges cover the deaths of three of her children. Deliberations began at midday Tuesday after prosecutors told the jury of eight women and four men that even though Yates is mentally ill, she knew drowning her children was wrong and is thus guilty of murder. “That’s the key,” prosecutor Kaylynn Williford said. “Andrea Yates knew right from wrong, and she made a choice on June 20 to kill her children deliberately and with deception.” The defense argued that she suffered from postpartum depression so severe that she had lost her ability for rational thought. “We can’t permit objective logic to be imposed on the actions of Andrea Yates,” defense attorney George Parnham said. “She was so psychotic on June 20 that she absolutely believed what she was doing was the right thing to do.” Parnham also told the jury in the closely watched case: “This is an opportunity for this jury to make a determination about the status of women’s mental health. Make no mistake, the world is watching.” After deliberating about 2 1/4 hours, jurors passed a note to District Judge Belinda Hill asking for the definition of insanity. Thirty minutes later, jurors asked for a cassette player. Among items in evidence are audiotapes of Yates’ confession and her 911 call to police the day of the drownings. Last year, Yates called her five children into the bathroom one by one and drowned them in the tub, then called 911 to tell authorities what she had done. Police found 7-year-old Noah in the tub; the other children were under a wet sheet on a bed. According to testimony, Yates was overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising five children and believed she was a bad mother. She had suffered severe depression and had attempted suicide. She is on trial for the deaths of Noah, 5-year-old John and 6-month-old Mary, though there were only two capital murder charges filed. One count listed the killings of Noah and John as two victims killed during the commission of the same crime to qualify for capital punishment. The second count lists the death of Mary as a child under the age of 6. By not listing all the children in a single count, prosecutors avoided the possibility that an acquittal could void all the charges. If necessary, they could file charges later in the deaths of the other two youngsters, Paul, 3, and Luke, 2. Hoping to prove insanity, Yates’ defense tried to convince the jury she could not tell right from wrong. Expert witnesses disagreed on that point. An expert for the defense told the jury that while Yates knew drowning her children was illegal, in her delusional mind she thought it was the only way to save her children from eternal damnation. Prosecutors said Yates did not start referring to Satan until the day after her arrest. Williford argued Yates was so deliberate she covered the bodies as she went because the children still alive were old enough to escape from the house and get help. She also noted bruises the children suffered as they struggled with their mother. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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