Mona Charen

On June 20, 2001, Andrea waited for Rusty to leave for work and then methodically murdered her five children. She told police she had done it because "they weren't developing correctly."

Two juries have had to decide to what degree Andrea Yates was responsible for her behavior. But no juries have ever been asked to consider Rusty's guilt. The word negligent doesn't even begin to describe his malfeasance. How is it possible that a man who knows his wife's sanity has been compromised by childbirth can nonetheless impregnate her five more times (she miscarried once)?

How could he leave her alone when he knew she was, at the very least, suicidal -- and when her failure to care for the children (and feeding is pretty elemental) revealed a clear case of endangering the welfare of a child? What was he thinking when he urged Andrea to home school all four of their children (the fifth came later) in the converted school bus they were living in?

Who is more guilty here: the sane one or the insane one? Some of the jurors in the retrial expressed regret that they could not legally find Yates "guilty but insane." Texas, unlike some other states, doesn't have such a verdict. In the common law tradition, insanity relieves a person of criminal responsibility because the insane have a diminished capacity to understand the wrongfulness of their crimes. But in practice, the line between rationality and irrationality is very hard to draw. Didn't Andrea wait until Rusty left the house to begin her murders? Doesn't that suggest planning?

Expert witnesses disagree all the time about the nature, extent and effects of mental illnesses. It therefore falls upon juries to use their common sense as to whether a defendant understood what he or she was doing. Many jurors have difficulty applying the words "not guilty" to a person like Andrea Yates -- crazy though she clearly is. For moral clarity as much as anything, there ought to be an option for "guilty but insane."

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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