Psychiatrist Hears Contradiction in Yates' Words

ByABC News
November 18, 2008, 1:41 PM

HOUSTON, July 26, 2006 — -- As the verdict was read, Andrea Yates seemed detached and unaware of what was happening. She was found not guilty of murdering her five children by reason of insanity.

In 2002, Yates was convicted of murder for drowning her children, one by one, in the family bathtub. She was sentenced to life in prison, but her conviction was overturned on appeal.

This jury was asked to decide if Yates is a criminal or insane.

The prosecutors' case was based for the most part on testimony from a psychiatrist who interviewed Yates for 15 hours. Dr. Michael Welner testified that Yates was able to tell right from wrong, and that she gave contradictory statements when asked if Satan had compelled her to kill her children.

Asked by ABC News if Yates was tormented and compelled by Satan, Welner said, "The evidence doesn't support it."

But excerpts from the interview seen by the jury and obtained exclusively by ABC News seem to support the defense's argument that Yates believed she was compelled by Satan to kill her children -- and that under Texas law, was legally insane.

From the transcript obtained by ABC News:

Welner: "Were you being driven by Satan to drown your own children?"

Yates: "I guess in a way I was, in that their destiny was not good. They were not heaven-bound."

The jury considered excerpts like that in making the decision to acquit Yates.

"She needs help. I think she'll need treatment for the rest of her life," the jury foreman said.

This was a victory not only for Andrea Yates, but for the insanity defense -- it is almost never used, and rarely successfully

"This is a watershed -- work toward making people better," said George Parnham, Yates' defense attorney. "Everybody is kind of in shock."

Yates will now be sent to a state-run mental hospital, possibly for the rest of her life.

If you'd like to see this entire report, watch "Primetime" Thursday night at 10 p.m.