Forensic Psychology

Mental Illness and the Law

Was Andrea Yates legally insane when she killed all five of her children?

By all accounts, Andrea Yates was a devoted wife, a devout Christian, and a conscientious mother of five small children. Unfortunately, she was also mentally ill. She had been hospitalized several times for psychosis and depression and treated with both antidepressant and antipsychotic medication. She had also twice attempted suicide.

On June 20, 2001, Yates drowned each of her five children in her bathtub and then called the police to report what she had done. Yates claimed that Satan had possessed her and that she needed to kill her children before Satan possessed them as well. If they died while they were still pure they would get into heaven. Otherwise, they would be damned to hell for all eternity.

Although her defense attorneys entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, she was found guilty of murder in a 2002 verdict and sentenced to life imprisonment. Her verdict was overturned in 2006, after it was revealed that one of the prosecution’s expert witnesses had given false testimony. She was then found not guilty by reason of insanity and remanded to a state hospital.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Psychology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App