December 15, 2004
Yates appeal starts

Lawyers for Andrea Yates are arguing before an appeals court that false testimony from a prosecution witness tainted her case and helped wrongfully convict her.

During the trial, [Dr. Park] Dietz, a California psychiatrist and prosecution witness, told defense attorney George Parnham under cross-examination about having consulted on a Law & Order episode in which a woman with postpartum depression drowned her children in a bathtub.

Dietz testified the program in question aired shortly before Yates drowned her children. Yates had told others that she frequently watched the program with her husband, Rusty.

"It could have made a difference. It was the only piece of evidence that gave her a firm, rational plan," McKinney said.

Unfortunately, that episode of Law & Order never existed. The jurors did not learn of this error until the punishment phase of the trial. More background here.

The prosecution maintains that Dietz' testimony about the mythical L&O episode was a small part of their overall case and they would have gotten the conviction anyway even without it. Maybe so, but it's my opinion that Andrea Yates' defense was hurt by this. It's impossible to play the what-if game, but I don't think the state should be aided by a lie, even if it was an unintentional lie. I believe the right course of action is to order a new trial. I don't have a lot of faith that the 1st Court of Appeals will see it that way, but one can hope.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 15, 2004 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

Gee, if Dr. Dietz was faced with someone who invented an imaginary event that supported their position, do you suppose he'd've thought it was in some way intended?

Posted by: julia on December 15, 2004 4:15 PM

Did you seen the AP wire story yesterday about religiosity and women who kill their children? It was in the Statesman, but here's a link to a nonreg site:

Posted by: Ellen on December 15, 2004 6:09 PM