July 27, 2006 -- One day after a Texas jury found Andrea Yates not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, a psychiatrist who examined her tells ABC News he's still not convinced.
Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner interviewed Yates for fourteen hours last May, roughly five years after she drowned her five children in the family bathtub. Welner says he has over sixty reasons why he believes Yates knew her actions were wrong, and he released that list exclusively to the ABC News Law & Justice Unit. Welner, the New York-based chairman of The Forensic Panel, http://www.forensicpanel.com/, was a key witness for the prosecution.
Under Texas criminal law, the standard for finding someone not guilty by reason of insanity is whether the person could tell right from wrong at the time of the offense.
Welner's list includes the fact that Yates called the police just after drowning her children because, she said, "the police is who you call when you've done something wrong." She also anticipated that she would be tried and punished for what she had done.
Although Welner believes Yates knew well enough to distinguish right from wrong, he doesn't dispute the fact that she was suffering from severe mental illness. Yates' post-partum depression and long history of psychotic episodes were at the heart of the trial.
Dr. Lucy Puryear, a psychiatrist and witness for the defense, told ABC News, "post-partum psychosis occurs again and again -- and each episode is usually worse than the last."
She also said that Yates' mental state at the time of the drownings "was about as bad as it gets."
In a video of the interviews with Welner released exclusively to ABC News, Andrea Yates says she thought about drowning the children because, otherwise, they "would not grow up to be righteous...that they were not heaven-bound." Specifically, she talks about visions of them turning out to be serial killers and homosexuals. They were headed for such a fate, Yates believed, because she had been a bad mother.
Yates also describes herself in the interviews as "the most hated woman in the world."
Whatever your opinion on the case, Welner's list offers a look into the mind of Andrea Yates and the crime she committed.
Welner is also developing a test called the depravity scale, http://depravityscale.org, in which Americans can answer a questionnaire or two to set a legal standard to see what constitutes depravity.
READ DR. WELNER'S REASONS WHY HE THINKS ANDREA KNEW RIGHT FROM WRONG:
1. Called police almost immediately after drowning the last child.
2. Resisted 911 efforts to coax her into explaining what happened, as if ashamed.
3. Called Rusty and told him to come home immediately without explaining why it was urgent.
4. Recognized need for police involvement because "the police is who you call when you've done something wrong."
5. Called the police after drowning the children because mother-in-law Dora Yates was about to come over.
6. Expressed profound guilt the next day -- despite the fact that she was getting even sicker.
7. Thought she needed to be punished for having done something wrong.
8. Said she didn't want to be the one to tell Rusty.
9. No confusion or protest with being taken into custody.
10. Anticipated being punished by criminal justice system.
11. After drowning her children, asked when her trial would be.
12. Said in the immediate aftermath she was prepared to go to hell for what she had done.
13. At first Yates told no one of the visions -- as if she knew they were bad.
14. She made it a point to act normally the morning of the crime.
15. Yates did not talk about her mood or ideas so as not to arouse any suspicious feelings from her husband Rusty, who attentively helped with taking care of the children each morning.
16. She waited to fill the tub until after Rusty had left the house.
17. The pet labrador that protected the kids was locked in its cage after Rusty left, contrary to normal practice in the Yates household.
18. After she drowned the children, she concealed the dead bodies from the other children.
19. She killed eldest son Noah last because as the strongest and largest, he would have disrupted the attacks.
20. At one point, she "made up her mind" to kill the children, but held back and went back to sleep because Rusty was there.
21. Visions she had in 1994 about her stabbing Noah were distressing to her.
22. The 1994 image of stabbing Noah prompted her to take active measures to quell such thoughts.
23. In 999 when the vision returned she was again distressed and restrained herself from acting on them.
24. When she feared acting on the visions, she called Rusty home from work saying she "needed help."
25. When the urge to stab Noah would became overpowering, she ingested an entire bottle of Trazadone, her psychoactive medication, to keep her from acting on it.
26. She opted to attempt suicide in June 1999 to prevent herself from acting on urge to kill Noah.
27. Opted for suicide again in July 1999, in order to keep from killing Noah.
28. Did not tell anyone about homicidal urges for months.
29. If she maintained the idea not to speak about her visions in order to prevent them from coming to fruition, this avoidance would also demonstrate awareness of the wrongfulness.
30. Told doctors about her homicidal visions in 1999 but still would not tell her family.
31. Yates said Rusty would have been very upset and scared in 1999 if she'd told him of her thoughts of stabbing Noah.
32. In 2001, when Yates began to formulate her plan for drowning the children, she never told Rusty -- even of the motivation, let alone the action.
33. Concealed the plan from her psychotherapist -- despite great trust.
34. Concealed the plan from her priest, despite spiritual trust in him.
35. In 2001, concealed it from her priest's wife, despite spiritual trust in her and their history of open and private communication.
36. In 2001, concealed it from friends to whom she had confided secrets on previous occasions.
37. In 2001, concealed it from her best friend -- despite having an intimate, longstanding, loyal relationship of support through her times of gravest mental illness.
38. In 2001, concealed it from her husband -- despite the nature of spiritual simpatico.
39. In 2001, concealed it from her pediatrician -- despite the doctor's role in assessing child development.
40. In 2001, concealed it from her gynecologist -- despite having been educated about post partum depression.
41. Stated she knew others in the Yates home would have stopped her from killing the children.
42. Recognized her therapist would act to protect the children and refer her to Child Protective Services and remove the children from the home.
43. Recognized her psychiatrist would hospitalize her if she told him.
44. Obscured the motives behind her actions to the Devereaux Hospital staff when she was questioned about filling the bathtub.
45. Restrained herself from acting on previous visions because she felt at the time that it was wrong to kill her children.
46. Knew Rusty would have stopped her from drowning the children.
47. Describes having to actively keep her feelings in check at the time of the crime.
48. Anticipated divorce in immediate aftermath.
49. Her reaction to decrease the children's resistance by removing the bathmat demonstrates awareness that the children believed it to be wrong as well.
50. Raised the issue of Satan for the first time when she was coming to terms with what happened.
51. Her feeling that Mary, because she was a girl, was more disposable than the other children who could have been saved.
52. Knew Rusty would be "unhappy" when he learned of what had happened.
53. Did not want mother-in-law Dora to see what she had done.
54. Minimized the significance of the killings when she called Rusty -- said that they were "hurt."
55. Not surprised to see Rusty and Dora distraught.
56. Actively avoided Rusty despite having called him back to the house.
57. Ambivalence at the time of the crime.
58. Said she possibly would have done it another day, meaning she knew she did not have to.
59. Said she would probably not have done it if mother-in-law Dora had been there.
60. Did not bring up her intentions to Rusty, as they together cared for children that morning.
61. Restraint when lacked opportunity to act because she knew someone would stop her.
62. Restrained herself for 1-2 months "because I wasn't ready yet."
63. Restrained herself from acting even when she hallucinated.
64. Restrained herself even when she felt she was tormented by Satan.
65. Restrained herself even when the children were at their most upsetting.
66. Restrained herself through any impulse to "get a knife."
67. Restrained herself from telling anyone even when she was being treated.
68. Not surprised to hear a radio talk show host express outrage over her actions.