January 13, 2005
Yates juror speaks out

One of the jurors for the Andrea Yates case says his decision to convict was affected by Dr. Park Dietz' testimony.

Ron Jones, juror No. 7 on the panel that decided Yates' fate, told state District Judge Belinda Hill in a letter that the controversial testimony from Dietz about a Law & Order television episode convinced him to change his mind from finding Yates to be insane to voting to convict her. The episode never aired.


Jones' comment came in a letter to Hill after the trial. Jones could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In a letter to Hill dated April 5, 2002, Jones said he was the only juror not convinced about finding Yates guilty during jury deliberations. At one point, he said, he went to the bathroom for a few minutes to pray "and the understanding came to me."

Jones said he summarized that Yates watched the Law & Order program two weeks before her children's death. At the same time, Yates also had been taken off the antipsychotic drug Haldol.

"I figured if she watched the program, only been off of Haldol that day. Her mind should have been sane," Jones wrote in his letter. "(An) easy way out of her horrible situation, I thought. This I told everyone of why I changed my mind from insane to guilty. That was the preponderance of the evidence that sealed her guilt to me."

I believe that should pretty much close the issue, though I see that some other jurors are not happy with the appellate court.

Another juror wrote to the Houston Chronicle this week, saying Dietz's testimony played no role in determining Yates' fate.

In a letter to the editor, juror No. 5, Kenneth L. Blanchard, said he was disappointed in the appellate court's decision.

"I cannot speak for the other jury members, but I can say definitely that the inaccurate portion of Dr. Park Dietz testimony had no impact on my decision," Blanchard said. "I also recall an informal poll in the jury room prior to our release in which we were asked if the controversial portion of Dr. Dietz's testimony factored into our decision. The opinion of the other jurors appeared consistent with mine that it had no bearing."

Blanchard said despite the rhetoric about the nobleness of jury duty, the appellate court decided to set aside the jury's verdict based on a few statements made during three weeks of testimony.

"I appreciate the opinions and perspectives on both sides of this tragedy and the earnest support of those around Ms. Yates," Blanchard wrote. "Another thing we agreed on was that Andrea Yates was a sick woman. However, the question was simply did she know right from wrong at the time she drowned her children. In our opinion, the evidence independent of Dr. Dietz's misstatements overwhelmingly supported that she did know right from wrong."

Juror Robert Buxton agrees with Blanchard, saying Dietz's testimony did not influence the jury's decision. Buxton said the crime was so horrendous that Yates will "never be sane again."

"It's just another way for her to get another trial the way other people do to use the system," Buxton said. "I'd sure hate to see it."

These people are missing the point. I'm not a lawyer, so those who are lawyers are welcome to correct me on this, but I believe the standard is not whether a juror was actually influenced by the false testimony but whether a reasonable juror could have been influenced by it. Even without Ron Jones' letter to Judge Hill, it should be clear that this standard was met, and so the appellate court made its unanimous ruling. Sharon Kelleresque shenanigans aside, I don't see how the court could have reached any other decision.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 13, 2005 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

I don't do much Texas Crim Pro, Charles, but I think that's right.

Posted by: TP on January 13, 2005 8:59 AM


Posted by: Kenneth Fair on January 14, 2005 9:21 AM

Buxton said the crime was so horrendous that Yates will "never be sane again."

That's odd. I thought the spectrum went from "Sane" to "Insane." I didn't realize it wrapped around to "So insane we'll just fry 'em anyway."

Posted by: kodi on January 14, 2005 5:44 PM