January 22, 2005
Prosecution appeals Yates order

The Harris County DA office has appealed the order for a new trial for Andrea Yates.

In a motion filed Thursday, prosecutors say the 1st Texas Court of Appeals erred Jan. 6 when it ordered a new trial, citing an expert prosecution witness who gave erroneous testimony about a TV program.

In Yates' March 2002 murder trial, forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz told jurors that she might have patterned the killings after an episode of Law & Order, in which a mother drowned her children and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. It later was found that no such episode existed.

Prosecutors say the remark about the TV show had no bearing on Dietz's assertion that Yates was sane when she killed her five children in June 2001.

Dietz's remark "does not impact in any degree upon the jurors' determination as to whether (she) knew what she was doing was wrong at the time that she committed the offenses," prosecutors said in court papers.


Citing 23 other cases, prosecutors contend the law cited by the appeals court about false testimony requiring a new trial applies only if the testimony had a direct bearing on the defendant's guilt or innocence.

They said the testimony arguably could have helped Yates' insanity claim. "If (Yates) had watched a Law & Order episode, (her) expert witnesses clearly would have viewed that as just another ingredient to (her) increasingly psychotic thoughts," prosecutors said.

I feel that if the false testimony was enough for Sam Nuchia to order a reversal, it ought to be enough for anyone. That said, never underestimate what kind of "logic" the Court of Criminal Appeals will (eventually) bring to bear. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 22, 2005 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack