A three-judge panel of the First Court of Appeals in Houston has overturned Texas mother Andrea Yates' capital murder convictions for the 2001 slayings of three of her children and ordered a new trial. In its ruling, the panel cited false testimony by key prosecution witness, psychiatrist Park Dietz, who was the only psychiatrist who testified at trial that Yates -- who had a history of postpartum depression -- was sane when she killed her children.
Here is a look at the Andrea Yates case:
On June 20, 2001, Yates drowned her five children -- Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and 6-month-old daughter Mary -- in the bathtub of the family's suburban Houston home. She then placed the four youngest victims on a bed and covered them with a sheet. Yates left her oldest son's body floating face down in the bathtub. When her husband, Russell, called from work, Yates told him to come home. She then called police and told them she had just killed her children.
Yates told police and psychiatrists that Satan ordered her to kill her five children to save them from eternal damnation.
Yates' Trial and Conviction
In March 2002, Yates was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in the deaths of three of her five children, Noah, John and Mary. She had confessed and pleaded guilty to killing her other two children, Paul and Luke.
The prosecution argued Yates was legally sane -- meaning that she knew right from wrong -- at the time of the slayings, while her defense argued she was insane. Experts agreed that Yates suffered from postpartum depression and schizophrenia, but defense and prosecution witnesses disagreed over how severe her illness was and whether it stopped her from knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Prosecutors had recommended the death penalty but ultimately the jury decided on a life sentence.
Pivotal Testimony and the Appeal
On April 30, 2004, Yates' attorney appealed her capital murder convictions, questioning the testimony of prosecution expert Park Dietz and challenging the constitutionality of Texas' insanity law.
Dietz, a psychiatrist, testified at trial that Yates knew killing her children was wrong. He said he based that conclusion in part on her belief that Satan, not God, had ordered the murders.
Dietz also testified that Yates' attempts to hide her murder plans indicated she knew they were wrong. But Dietz incorrectly testified that an episode of the TV show "Law & Order" dealing with postpartum depression aired just before the killings. He said the episode portrayed a woman who drowned her children and was later found not guilty by reason of insanity. Producers from "Law & Order" called Yates' defense and said such an episode didn't exist. Yates' attorney called for a mistrial but his petition was denied. Prosecutors admit the "Law & Order" mistake, but say it was unintentional.
Yates and Her History of Mental Illness
Andrea Pia Kennedy was born July 2, 1964. She married Russell Yates in 1993.
Shortly before the killings, Yates had been at a hospital in League City, just outside Houston. At that point, she had struggled with postpartum depression for two years, since the birth of her fourth child, doctors say.
Two weeks after being released from the hospital, Yates killed her five children.
An assistant district attorney who helped prosecute the case has said more treatment probably would have prevented her from drowning the children.
In 2003, Yates was placed on suicide watch while in prison. At the time, her lawyer said Yates believed her dead children were in purgatory and only her death would free them.
In July 2004, Yates was hospitalized after refusing to eat.
He filed for divorce from Andrea in August 2004.
He works at the Johnson Space Center.
In May 2004, he sold the three-bedroom house where the children were killed for $109,900.