The psychiatrist whose erroneous testimony led an appeals court to overturn Andrea Yates' conviction for drowning her children said Friday that he got the flawed information from Harris County prosecutors.
Park Dietz, of California, said it was "an honest mistake" when he wrongly told jurors that Yates might have been inspired by an episode of the TV series Law & Order. He described an episode about a woman who drowned her children and was found innocent by reason of insanity.
After jurors convicted Yates of capital murder, it was learned that no such episode existed. The 1st Texas Court of Appeals concluded Thursday that Dietz's testimony rendered the trial unfair.
Dietz said Friday that he had been confused because prosecutors told him there was a Law & Order episode with that plot.
"I put that in my notes and must have remembered those notes," he said in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America program.
Prosecutors have repeatedly said they did not know Dietz's testimony was incorrect until later, after Yates was convicted but before jurors decided her sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Joe Owmby, who tried Yates' capital murder case, said the discussion of the TV show was brief. Owmby told the Associated Press on Friday that, before the trial began, he asked Dietz whether such a Law & Order episode had ever aired and Dietz said he would look into it.
Dietz did not follow up on the conversation and the subject never surfaced again, Owmby said.
"So, in a way, I'm not disputing the question came up because of something we asked him," he said. "But we got no response, and it wasn't important to the development of our case.
"But I think it's a little leap to say we caused this to happen," Owmby said.
The remark about the TV show apparently can be traced back to an e-mail sent to the District Attorney's Office from a Houston-area schoolteacher shortly after Yates' arrest.
The teacher said that, just days before the slayings, she had seen a rerun of an episode from the 1980s legal drama L.A. Law, in which a woman drowned her children and was found innocent by reason of insanity.
After news reports of Yates' arrest, the teacher, who asked not to be identified, e-mailed the District Attorney's Office.
She later received a call from Owmby, said her attorney, Philip Hilder.
Owmby has previously declined to comment on the e-mail. He could not be reached for comment Friday.