Life, not Death
March 15, 2002 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Life, not Death for Ms. Yates. And, Texas doesn't have a no-parole sentence, so she'll be eligible for release. Where does she go from there?
posted by dwivian (33 comments total)
Under Texas law, that is at least 40 years without a chance of parole.

that puts her out at age 77. I suppose if they want to keep her longer they can still charge her for the other 2 children for a second life sentence.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:06 PM on March 15, 2002

she will sit in jail for at least 40 years, probably on perpetual suicide watch. If she is allowed to mingle with the other prisoners, her fate will probably the same as Dahmer's.
posted by whatnot at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2002

40 year minimum for life down here in Texas. She will be over 70 by the time she gets out. Too old have kids then.
posted by da5id at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2002

Seems a reasonable outcome. I doubt she'll make it to 77... simply because the weight of guilt will eventually kill her, in and of itself...
posted by dissent at 12:41 PM on March 15, 2002

whatnot - Since she is incarcerated with other women, many of whom are probably in prison for a similar crime (killing of a spouse or child), it is doubtful she will be in any more danger of being persecuted for by the other prisoners than they are in danger of being persecuted for it themselves.
posted by annathea at 12:41 PM on March 15, 2002

Wow, it only took the jury 35 minutes to decide. I'm glad that they took the right path and gave her life. I didn't have high hopes for this kind of outcome seeing as how Harris County, if it were a state, would rank third on a list of states (behind Texas and Virginia) in total number of prisonsers executed. It has executed 61 people since 1977.

Here is a good four-part series on why Harris County is so death-row-happy.

I wonder if she will recieve any sort of mental health treatment in prison because, legally, she was found sane. It seems obvious, though, that she has serious mental problems. So will the state just let her mind rot away?
posted by thewittyname at 12:41 PM on March 15, 2002

annathea, I doubt mose women are in prison for killing their children, and prisoners are notoriously brutal toward those sentenced for crimes against children.
posted by Doug at 12:49 PM on March 15, 2002

thewittyname: supposedly she will receive treatment (at the end of the article). She wasn't found medically sane, she was found *legally* sane (one of the many things that are just weird about the criminal justice system: the two have no relationship to each other).
posted by biscotti at 12:50 PM on March 15, 2002

If she's not crazy now she certainly will be 40 years from now. This case points out the injustice done by painting things with a broad brush: each case has to be looked at individually; if a stranger had drowned those kids the collective 'wisdom' would be to have them torn apart by a pack of dogs. This case was different, and if her mental condition is attended to the reflection on what she did will be like torture.
posted by Mack Twain at 12:51 PM on March 15, 2002

I think this was an appropriate punishment. Actually, it's even worse than it sounds because she's probably going to be put in solitary confinement, which means she sits in a cell for 23 hours a day and gets 1 hour for recreation.

She obviously has mental problems, so I hope she gets treated in prison; but I'm also glad she's incarcerated. She knew that what she was doing was wrong.
posted by mrmanley at 12:57 PM on March 15, 2002

From the CNN article:

In a cell measuring 14-by-6 feet, Yates will spend 23 hours a day asleep or awake, receiving meals passed beneath metal bars or pushed through a slit in a metal door to eat in solitude.

"It's called administrative segregation," said Larry Todd, public information officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which runs the prisons in Texas. "She gets one hour to recreate." That hour will not be shared with other inmates, and the weather determines if the 60-minute respite from her cell happens beneath sunny skies or within cavernous concrete.

They're saying she'll be isolated because she's a high profile case, but I really think it's because she would be killed by the other inmates.
posted by whatnot at 1:10 PM on March 15, 2002

Actually, it's even worse than it sounds because she's probably going to be put in solitary confinement, which means she sits in a cell for 23 hours a day and gets 1 hour for recreation.

"She gets one hour to recreate." That hour will not be shared with other inmates, and the weather determines if the 60-minute respite from her cell happens beneath sunny skies or within cavernous concrete.

I think that dying terrified and screaming at the hands of the one person that you were supposed to look to for comfort and protection, followed by mouldering in your grave for eternity with your four brothers and sisters, is just a bit worse. Forgive me if I fail to shed any tears for anyone in this case but the victims.

Save your indignant responses, I'm done here.
posted by UncleFes at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2002

I think this was an appropriate punishment. Actually, it's even worse ...

Way to selectively quote, there, Fes.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 1:33 PM on March 15, 2002

I doubt most women are in prison for killing their children

Actually, the murder of offspring is the only crime besides shoplifting that is committed by women more than by men. Odds are that a significant number of the women she is incarcerated with are there because they either murdered or abused their own children.

I am satisfied with this outcome, given that she clearly has abrogated her right to ever have children again. The really sad thing is, she didn't *want* this many children. She didn't want to home school her children. Her husband is the bastard who intentionally married a woman he could control, and then strong-armed her into having more children than she wanted despite her very serious depressions after the previous children. He insisted that she home school the children, left her alone in the house with them all day every day without a break while he went off to his job and put pretty little pictures on his desk of the kids he spent a few hours a day with. He did everything he possibly could have done to ensure that she would snap, whether or not he recognizes that that was what he was doing. He knew how sick she was, and he left her alone with the kids anyway. And while she is rotting away in prison, he is free to start again with another woman.
posted by Lokheed at 1:45 PM on March 15, 2002

Lokheed: do you have any links to back those statements up? (not that I'm necessarily disagreeing with you, but it seems awfully easy to spin things like this, f'rex I don't recall reading anywhere that she didn't want that many children or that she didn't want to homeschool them, I have read that she only got one night a week to herself, mind you)
posted by biscotti at 1:58 PM on March 15, 2002

I know you can't compare these cases head to head, but I have to wonder if Texas would have been quicker to seek, and win, the death penalty in this case under the following fact set:

Poor black man in his twenties
Criminal record
Kills three children deliberately
Claims mental impairment

Although she was not sentenced to death, this case is as much an indictment of the capital punishment system in the U.S. as anything I've seen.
posted by luser at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2002

Actually, I find myself more concerned about her husband.

Considering he came home and found his family wiped out, and then was then was strong/foolish enough to be supportive of his wife through the trial, he's really stuck out in limbo at the moment.

What's he supposed to do now? At least the death penalty would have closed this chapter of his life. And since he decided to go the empathetic way with his wife, he's probably going to go the long road of prison visitation, etc. before he finally gets enough sense to file for the divorce.

The kids are gone, and her sentence is sealed; he's the last surviving victim of this whole affair. He'll always be known as 'the guy whose wife drowned the kids in the bathtub'. I hope the rest of his life works out for him.
posted by Perigee at 2:13 PM on March 15, 2002

Luser: That was the first thing I thought of too:
Andrea Yates got life in prison. While reporting this on CNN, the Headline News anchor had this exchange with the reporter:

Host I understand the sentencing phase of the trial was a bit unusual, in that the prosecution didn't call any witnesses.

Reporter Yes. The prosecution got the guilty verdict they wanted, and decided not to aggressively pursue the death penalty because they didn't want to appear bloodthirsty.

That last comment seems to be missing a pretty important prepositional phrase: the prosecution didn't want to seem bloodthirsty to whom? The jury?" Having been found guilty, life in prison was the least Yates could get, so why not try and pursuaded them to go for the maximum punishment? And I can't imagine they wouldn't want to look bloodythirsty to the crowd in and around the courtroom, most of whom were not overly sympathetic to Yates' case.

In truth, I suspect the prosecution didn't want to seem bloodthirsty to the American people, and that a lot of folks who are ardently in favor of capital punishment are glad to see Yates get life in prison. Many in Texas and our nation would find the idea of executing a white, mentally unstable woman to be profoundly unsettling. And the less people that think about unfairly the death penalty to applied to different categories of people, the better its chances for continued popularity. Do you think the prosecution would be agonizing over their image if the defendant in the trial had been a black man? I don't. Nor do I think he would have received life in jail.

I'm against the death penalty on principle, but just barely. In high school I was rabidly in favor of it, although I am unable to recall why. Oddly, my conversion to my current position on the issue wasn't a result of my becoming more idealistic, but rather my becoming more cynical: I now have so little confidence on our judicial system ability to prevent the innocent from getting railroaded -- either through error or abuse -- that, to be on the safe side, I think we should avoid any irrevocable acts like execution. I suspect that many folks who were against the death penalty changed their minds when McVeigh's number got called. And I think that's great: what's important isn't so much a person's opinion on an issue like this, but that they care enough to think about it and make a conscience decision. Indeed, perhaps the only good thing to come out of cases like McVeigh's and Yates' is that it give us all an opportunity to reconsider our opinions on crime and punishment. And I think that's exactly what the prosecution in this case is trying to prevent.
Cut 'n' pasted from my blog because I'm to lazy to retype and reword it for MeFi consumption.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2002

Poor black man in his twenties
Criminal record
Kills three children deliberately
Claims mental impairment

Though I'm thoroughly against the death penalty, I think that in a regime in which the death penalty exists, the criminal record of a convict is a proper critereon for judging whether the death penalty should be administered. Of course, you could argue that institutional racism and classism make it more likely for a poor black man to have a criminal record....
posted by mr_roboto at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2002

I have a horrible mental image of him going back to work, and people either shying away from him, bad enough, or saying, "Hey Rusty, what's up? How's it going? What's new?", even worse. I mean, how would you talk to the guy? How can he ever have a normal life again, him or anyone else connected with this awful mess? I feel compassion for all of them
posted by Lynsey at 2:22 PM on March 15, 2002

"She gets one hour to recreate."

Isn't that what caused the problem in the first place?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:28 PM on March 15, 2002

Bad joke. BAD joke.
posted by darukaru at 2:30 PM on March 15, 2002

Almost half of women are in prison for drug-related crimes. About one-third are in prison for violent crimes.
So, it's fair to say that out of that one-third, considering all of the options there are, probably a lot less less than half of that one third are in for murdering a child. My guess would be a LOT less.
Being the oh-so fortunate ex-spouse of a convicted murderer, I know a bit about how the female prison system operates, atleast here in Texas. And believe me, if she was put out in General Pop, she wouldn't last a week.
posted by bradth27 at 2:54 PM on March 15, 2002

and I think that's exactly what they should do.
posted by bradth27 at 2:55 PM on March 15, 2002

I hope she gets the mental health treatment she needed in the first place. She was screaming for help, all the signs said "I need help!" but she didn't get any. It's like the guy who was turned in by Dear Abby for saying he was having child porn problems. What these people need is drugs and therapy and serious attention. Not prison.
She should be sent to a mental health institute until cured (if that's possible,) then sent to minimum security prison or a halfway house or something.
I know this isn't a popular sentiment (see: UncleFes's post) but I really feel that she made it very obvious that she really really needed help. Her husband and the medical system royally failed her and her kids paid for it.
posted by aacheson at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2002

I feel it is unfortunate that she did not receive the "help" before she committed the deed. But now that she has, she must pay the price. I will agree that the sentencing is fair, but if I was the one making the decision, I would have asked for death by drowning. I don't feel that her husband and the medical system failed her. Maybe some wrong judgements were made, yes, but that does not justify what she did. Sane, Insane, Emotionally cripled, whatever, she should be put to death.
In my opinion, of course....
So, in a way, i agree that she should not get a prison sentence. She does need an alternative form of treatment.
posted by bradth27 at 3:49 PM on March 15, 2002

As much as I agree with her punishment, I cannot formulate any sort of argument for it. There is no reason to punish her, just as there is no reason to punish most of the people we put in jail (2 million now?). I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like if my own mother murdered me. I cannot imagine anyone here can imagine that either. Who wants ice cream! Yayy! crash sploosh gurgle blurble croak.

So here is my halfassed argument for her staying in jail. Do we owe her anything? No, not really, she was messed up and she ruined a number of lives while taking a few others. Would she ever be able to do anything worthwhile with her life? Perhaps but as a rule we don't like people that weird hanging around. Simply saying "she must pay the price" is a ridiculous argument. You don't know what the price is - you cannot concieve of the punishment and therefore cannot know its worth. You are simply playing games with syntax. The only reason she should be put to death is if it does any good. Considering the expense of putting someone to death, what good could it do? Now if you want to break into her cell with a homemade garotte, that's fine.

Oh and her husband (who works for NASA? I'm not sure) probably has enough on his mind without people thinking he failed her. Yeah he might have been the most ignorant, overbearing, horrible man in the world. Fact is she killed his kids. Three of them. I think for our purposes here today she got *even*.
posted by Settle at 7:44 PM on March 15, 2002

Three of them.

Uh, five.
posted by adampsyche at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2002

The thing that tickles me is that people think she should be given lenient treatment because she has some sort of mental illness. Hello? As far as I'm concerned, anyone who kills anyone deliberately has a mental problem! Does this mean that every murderer should get a lesser sentence? Of course not. She did it, she pays for it.
posted by wackybrit at 4:50 AM on March 16, 2002

As far as you're concerned, wackybrit, I hope you never suffer from debilitating mental illness.
posted by riviera at 5:11 AM on March 16, 2002

Darn it, I didn't mean to say 'deliberately'. I meant to say.. anyone who kills anyone definitely has a mental problem.
posted by wackybrit at 9:29 AM on March 16, 2002

The whole damn thing is sad..

Oh yea, lets hope none of you ever have to live with the agony of mental illness, either your own or others

posted by redhead at 10:05 AM on March 16, 2002

I know it's five, but she was only charged with/convicted of three murders. Trying to keep apples-to-apples.
posted by luser at 11:34 AM on March 16, 2002

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