July 28, 2006
Our judicial system is broken. And somebody needs to fix it.
Consider for a moment a process that would allow a crafty, shrewd,
smart defense attorney to find a way to eliminate a guilty verdict for
a client who brutally and systematically murdered her five children.
Then, he managed to take the open and shut case back to another jury
and get the verdict that she wanted in the first place, not guilty by
reason of insanity.
That’s precisely what happened in the awful tale of Andrea Yates.
Mental illness is not something we should ignore. I have heard
countless stories of people anguished by a family member’s psychosis or
some demon that keeps a loved one from functioning normally.
But to mount an insanity defense and ask for a jury of men and women to
return a judgment of “not guilty” is asking way too much.
Why does our system have such a gross miscarriage of a verdict? “Not
guilty by reason of insanity?” So now, officially and formally, Andrea
Yates did not drown her five children, is that it? A few years of
treatment in a mental hospital and then presto! She’s all better now,
free to be released into an unsuspecting public. Perhaps she can change
her name, start a new life, and maybe even re-marry.
It sickens me to think of those five beautiful little children lying in
their graves. What’s even worse is to think about their desperate,
horrific fight to stay alive. The medical examiner testified that this
wasn’t a quick, painless death for those children. They fought hard.
Noah, the oldest at 7, was found in the death tub with his tiny fists
clenched, numerous bruises and internal contusions in his battered
body. The 5 year old, John, still had a strand of Mama’s long, dark
hair in his tiny hand.
And a Houston jury decided that this woman, a mother who waited until
her husband left for work, filled up the tub and chased her children
and drowned them, one by one, simply didn’t do it. She was just having
a bad spell, a psychotic day. She didn’t know what she was doing. She
figured she was demon possessed. Maybe she thought she was Marie
So she’s NOT GUILTY.
I hope and pray that if we ever catch Osama Bin Laden, he doesn’t hire
George Parnham, Andrea Yates’ attorney. After all, how crazy must he
be, to think that slaughtering people who love Christ is the way to
meet the 70 virgins in heaven? How nuts is someone who straps bombs to
his body and blows up himself and a bunch of children in a pizza parlor?
I guess our enemy terrorists are just depressed people in dire need of
Our judicial system needs help. The scales of justice are enormously
tipped on the side of the bad guys. Since Andrea Yates and her
attorneys were allowed to shop around for the jury they wanted, why
can’t the prosecutors? If a multiple child-killer can keep going back
to the well to come up with a verdict that pleases her (and keeps her
out of jail), why can’t the state? Oh, that’s right: double jeopardy.
We only give the judicial system one chance at a guilty verdict. The
murderers get multiple chances, there’s no double jeopardy rule for a
not guilty verdict.
I truly believe that there are many people who fail to believe that
there is true evil in the world. In our lifetime, we have watched women
drown their babies, whether their names are Susan Smith or Andrea
Yates; we have heard people describe terrorists as “freedom fighters”;
we watch people describe our president as a Nazi storm trooper; we
continually see good described as bad, right defined as wrong.
Here’s a simple solution to the unnerving spectacle of a woman drowning
her five children and getting away with it: let’s throw out “not guilty
by reason of insanity.” No one doubts that Andrea Yates drowned her
children, least of all Andrea Yates. But even crazy people have to take
responsibility for their actions, at least when they’ve recovered. To
suggest that someone is innocent because they hear voices, or fight
depression, or suffer from panic attacks, is to pretend that the actual
crime didn’t occur.
We desperately need a new verdict in America that is fair, accurate,
and sensible: GUILTY BUT INSANE. Sure, sick people do sick things. If a
jury is convinced someone is mentally ill, allow them to return a
guilty but insane verdict. That way, the killer can get the treatment
she needs and if and when she gets healthy again, she should serve her
time behind bars, like everybody should do.
Anything short of that is the real definition of insanity.