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Mom kills, dad kills: Two takes on tragedy
March 3, 2002 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Mom kills, dad kills: Two takes on tragedy This article looks at the differences between the Andrea Yates case and that of Adair Garcia, a Los Angeles man accused of murdering his children. The article discusses gender differences, but I wonder if ethnicity plays a role as well. (Here's another link, since the URL field on the "post a link" page seems to be cutting it off).
posted by electro (22 comments total)

 
The ethnicity AND sex will play a role come sentencing time, no doubt.
posted by Mach3avelli at 2:24 PM on March 3, 2002


Holy confusing, unreadable and long url Batman!
posted by riffola at 2:57 PM on March 3, 2002


In the Yates case, I think it is the husband, Robert Yates, who should be found guilty and given the death penalty. He drove her to it.
posted by Rebis at 6:10 PM on March 3, 2002


I think it has to do with the fact that the mother - being the bearer of the offspring - may have a closer relationship with the children than the father would, seeing that (at least from my viewpoint) fathers are moreso "distant" from the children. That's why it's sometimes considered a shocker that the mothers kill - they're the ones that are supposed to be nurturing. (Again, all under my speculation.)
posted by GirlFriday at 6:43 PM on March 3, 2002


He drove her to it.

What a looped system we'd have if we applied that (sex equal) to all crimes.
posted by HTuttle at 7:13 PM on March 3, 2002


A point which I haven't seen anyone focus on is that Andrea Yates killed her children because she thought that she was *saving them from a worse fate*, that of suffering through her mothering. She was, in her twisted post-partum-psychotic way, trying to _help_ them, not harm them.

She wasn't even capable, at that time, of realizing that she *was* harming them. That's part of what psychosis _means_.

When you're psychotic, you're living in your own dream reality where "normal" laws of right and wrong simply don't apply. Things that make no sense to anyone else can seem perfectly reasonable - even really bizarre, wacked-out shit.

(I had a psychotic episode last year and did some pretty amazingly weird stuff myself, though thankfully it never entered my mind to harm anyone)

In contrast, it seems clear that Mr. Garcia was out for revenge, killing his children in order to hurt them and his wife. He knew what he was doing was wrong, even if he was depressed when he did it. That purposeful intent to harm makes him much more culpable.
posted by beth at 8:08 PM on March 3, 2002


A valid point, beth. But could that excuse then be used for any religious fanatic murder?
posted by HTuttle at 8:44 PM on March 3, 2002


Things that make no sense to anyone else can seem perfectly reasonable - even really bizarre, wacked-out shit.

All of which serves as an explanation... but not an excuse. Her husband should have realized how ill she was and done everything in his power to remove the children from her control; she herself should have realized how ill she was and removed herself from the children while she sought treatment.

In the end, being sick is not even remotely capable of excusing her actions. She was certainly capable enough to run down all her kids and spend the 5-8 minutes apiece fighting them and drowning them; she was capable enough to call her husband and tell him "something's wrong;" she was capable enough to seek prior treatment; no one's given any indication that her husband was some kind of ogre, and many, many families have five or more children, so her stressors, while significant, we're not unheard of. She should have been capable enough, once she realized she was a danger to those kids, to leave or force the children to leave. Instead, she hid her violent fantasies, then enacted them.

In crimes of this magnitude, there's no such thing as more culpable, less culpable. She could have been a full on unmedicated schizophrenic, watching the walls roar and Satan vomiting himself up from hell to give her instructions and stock quotes. In light of the crime, it simply doesn't matter. One is either guilty or not. She is. And since even the most far-reaching punishment under our laws is, when you consider it, really an insufficient redress for this particular crime, only a tortured (and ultimately unjust) proceeding could, imo, render anything else.

While the law may parse her episode to its minutia, the reality is - and justice should dictate - that each of us not only fully responsible for all our actions regardless of our state of mind, but that we are also even more responsible for the defenseless in our charge.

She's got to ride the lightning for this. No other punishment is even remotely adequate. Garcia too. Anyone who commits such a crime. Nothing else is sufficient.
posted by UncleFes at 9:15 PM on March 3, 2002


Ok, this is stupid. I'm not going to bring forth a slew of articles or any facts on this. Simply put... I don't have to.

In both cases, a parent killed their kids. I don't give a rats ass what sex you are, or how 'troubled' you are, you just killed your own kids. No trial should be needed. You admit to it, and then you die.

If depression drives someone to kill their own kids, then what'll happen when the McDonalds down the street stops serving breakfast 3 minutes before 11? Has anyone seen the movie 'Falling Down'?

Anyone who argues that these people should not be killed is a friggin' moron.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 10:26 PM on March 3, 2002


Anyone who argues that these people should not be killed is a friggin' moron.

::blink:: Wow, I'm not going to touch that. If anyone with more patience than myself would care to enlighten this man, please do so.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:39 PM on March 3, 2002


If anyone with more patience than myself would care to enlighten this man, please do so.

Oh well, if someone has to...JakeEXTREME, one worthwhile argument to make here is that, assuming you have a death penalty at all, it should have some purpose. As in, to make society safer, either by deterring crimes or taking dangerous people out of circulation permanently. That's why insanity or mental instability makes a difference. Many such people can be cured so that they are no longer dangerous, or they can be incarcerated until they are (if ever). More importantly, you can't deter crazy people. Fear of execution would have made no difference to Andrea Yates.

Anyway, all that's without getting started on the death penalty arguments themselves, but there's little point saying more in a discussion with someone whose opening gambit is to call his opponents morons.
posted by Gaz at 3:08 AM on March 4, 2002


Well, I'm a strong supporter of the death penalty and while I feel Andrea Yates should be locked up in a little room for the rest of eternity I don't think she should get the chair. I also think some charges should be brought against her husband.
posted by owillis at 3:26 AM on March 4, 2002


Gaz, I have no argument. It's clear cut, she is a killer, no excuse. If you don't understand what a killer is I suggest you watch more CNN news.

It's people like you and BlueTrain that destroy America, you allow people to get off on stupid little pleas of depression by feeding the fire. Maybe if you'd all get your head out your ass, maybe you'd be able to see the point of kids dead in bathtubs, kids dead with knives, kids dead by asphixiation and kids dead by any means that was personlly motivated by another human being is wrong. It's not just wrong it's evil. Rest assured if I killed someone I'd EXPECT to to die if I was caught or confessed.

The lady drowned her kids individualy. She took an awful lot of planning to do it. Obviuosly not a spur of the moment thing. As far as locking her up until she's cured... fine, let's just make sure all of the cash to support her murdering self is coming from your pocket and the rest of you heart to heart types.

It just bugs me to know that people will jump on the back of this boat and say she wa a friggin' victim. Just tell me, you all do know murder is a crime, right?

Kind of sad to think, after they let her of the hook with 6 months of psycological study, they'll find documentation that in the end she did it only because she was feeling sorry for herself, she had pity for herself. She really didn't give a damn about those kids and her lawyer or some tart fed her the excuse of trying to help her kids because they thought it would look better in spotlights. After the fact, she'll be free and clear, and it will be noted she was just selfish. She didn't mercy kill, she was only thinking of herself.

The one thing I think I believe out of her statements I've heard so far, is that she is a bad mother. When you kill your kids, you better believe your a bad mother.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 8:29 AM on March 4, 2002


You may say apples and oranges but...

If I rape a woman because I'm depressed that I haven't had sex since I dumped my girlfriend, should I get away with it?

Do you see a pattern developing?
posted by JakeEXTREME at 8:34 AM on March 4, 2002


If I rape a woman because I'm depressed that I haven't had sex since I dumped my girlfriend, should I get away
with it?


The above statement pretty clearly indicates that you don't really understand what mental illness is, or how it relates to these cases. You don't become psychotically clinically depressed because you haven't had sex since you dumped your girlfriend. You *are* comparing apples and oranges, but it's not the types of crime that don't relate to each other, it's your example above and the examples in the links. I'm not getting into another DP argument here, but you simply can't compare feeling a bit down with psychotic clinical depression (and likely schizophrenia as well in the case of Andrea Yates).
posted by biscotti at 9:02 AM on March 4, 2002


More importantly, you can't deter crazy people. Fear of execution would have made no difference to Andrea Yates

Studies invariably show that you can't deter sane people, either. Everytime a death penalty discussion is joined, those who disapprove of it trot out the "it doesn't deter crime" argument, while those who favor it continue to try and come up with some way that it does. Pfui. Simply put, there are some crimes that are so heinous, so horrible, so completely across the line, that there is only one penalty that can even possibly be considered justice. This is one of those crimes. The enormity of this crime precludes the ability of her mental condition to excuse her actions. If she'd burned down the garage, or ran down the street in her drawers, her mental condition is a factor. But since she methodically murdered five children, well, something as meager as "what was going on in her head" ceases to be of relevance.

This is just my opinion, of course. She'll almost certainly get tossed into a mental institution, treated and, at some point, released. Such is the quality of our mercy, and our justice, and such is the quality of our consideration for the cruelly dead. You only matter if you draw breath, in this land. Die, and the concern of the people die with you.
posted by UncleFes at 9:28 AM on March 4, 2002


Could we get one thing clear here?

Doing something slowly is not the same thing as doing something sanely. Psychotic episodes don't have to involve running around screaming and foaming at the mouth, and when you're having one you can't exactly say, "Hmmm, I think I might be psychotic right now. Perhaps it would be best if I checked myself into a hospital or something. I'll just make sure the iron is off and be on my way."

To say that careful = sane = some bored housewife in the middle of a pity party is to grossly oversimplify a terrible and complicated dysfunction.
posted by stefanie at 9:52 AM on March 4, 2002


It's people like you and BlueTrain that destroy America

I suddenly feel very good about myself. Take note MetaFilter. I AM DESTROYING AMERICA!

Rest assured if I killed someone I'd EXPECT to to die if I was caught or confessed.

The only problem, Jake, is that I'm assuming you're sane and understand the laws of the land. At the time of this murder, she was not sane. She was mentally no longer herself, hence the term insanity. Insanity isn't a cop-out, it's an actual defense for a crime committed.

Kind of sad to think, after they let her of the hook with 6 months of psycological study, they'll find documentation that in the end she did it only because she was feeling sorry for herself, she had pity for herself.

I cannot see myself saying anything more to you if you do not comprehend mental illness. I can suggest you pick up a beginners' book on psychology, though I have a feeling you believe that psychology is BS. Let's be clear; you do not have an argument if do not believe in mental illnesses. If you recognize their existence and believe that people with them should still be accountable for their actions, that's a valid argument. Is that what you believe?
posted by BlueTrain at 10:00 AM on March 4, 2002


BlueTrain- We all know what mental illness is, no need to be condescending about it. Jake was speaking from the gut about his(and many other peoples) reaction to these crimess. I'm basically with him and unclefes that there are some crimes so heinous that insanity and the usual debates about punishment-vs.-rehabilitation no longer matter or even make sense and it merely becomes a question of public safety, ie is Yates so dangerous that she cannot be allowed to live even among the prison population, which is an issue that is certainly open to debate. Also, I think a lot of people are offended by the casting of Yates as a victim in this case. While the mental health professionals in this case certainly share some culpability here, the victims are those children.
posted by jonmc at 10:54 AM on March 4, 2002


To say that careful = sane = some bored housewife in the middle of a pity party is to grossly oversimplify a terrible and complicated dysfunction.

I agree. But my contention is that, in light of what she did, her terrible and complicated disfunction should cease to be a factor in deciding how she should be punished. She has committed crimes of such magnitude that the excuse is insufficient to ameliorate the damage.

If a legally blind man drives a car and runs over a kid on a bike, you don't hear arguments that the proper punishment for this crime should be to confine him to a hospital until his sight is restored, do you?
posted by UncleFes at 11:05 AM on March 4, 2002


I AM DESTROYING AMERICA!

We're aware, pipe down :)
posted by UncleFes at 11:07 AM on March 4, 2002


BlueTrain, you ask me what I believe?

I believe a woman killed her own kids.
I believe a crime has been committed.
I believe people should be responsible for their own actions.
I believe that we should not feel sympathetic for a murderer.
I believe that mental conditions exist.
I believe that people with severe mental conditions should seek help.
I believe that I should not have to pay for the lifestyle of those who can not abide by law.
I believe that Andrea Yates is a cold blooded psychopathic murderer.
I believe that she did not mercy kill.
I believe that a clinically depressed persons first action if they thought themselves to be worthless as she claims, would be suicide.
I believe killing innocent kids would not instantly cure a fit of deep depression as appears in this case.
I believe if she was as depressed and sorry as she said she was, she would have killed herself by now.
I believe Yates is a liar.
I believe she should not live off yours and my tax money.
I believe Ms. Yates should not live.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 4:54 PM on March 4, 2002


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