Thursday, December 22, 2005


Two reports of infanticide this week.  One is the continuing saga of Andrea Yates, the incontrovertably insane mother who drowned her five children in a Texas bathtub.  Apparently the state of Texas is no longer thinking that her actions were criminal but rather criminally insane.  She will be moved from prison to a mental hospital.  There is no question she pushed her little one's heads under the water until they died.  That she did the deed is an undisputed fact.  However her convictions were overturned when forensic psychologist Park Deitz wrongly implied that she had hatched the idea based on an episode of Law & Order.  Such an episode did not exist.

On the other hand, a 33 year old Morman man in Twin Falls Idaho was arrested in connection with the deaths of three young children under 10 in his home.  Nothing about the relationships of the children to the man has been reported, but they had been seen playing in the house's yard prior to their deaths.  I assume that the children where his children and that he killed them.  Andrea Yates was originally convicted of capital murder.  Through a technicality she has been released.  I don't believe that this was necessarily an error on the part of the court system, because the expert (Park Deitz) testified incorrectly and erroneously. 

What does this teach us?  First, never send anyone to prison based on the opinion of an expert.  Second, women and men may not suffer unequal fates when convicted of killing their children.  Andrea Yates, if we are to believe the experts who defended her, suffered command hallucinations.  If that can be proved (and the insanity defense is a defense which must be proved) then she was de facto legally insane.  Family annihilators, such as the guy in Twin Falls, or Christian Longo or John List, are psychopaths, but fully aware of the illegality of their actions.  Their motives stem from a neurotic desire for control, rather than a mental defect.  They have choices.  People with mental defects such as those of Andrea Yates do not.

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