February 27, 2006
Yates plea deal rejected
The Harris County DA has offered a plea to Andrea Yates, but the offer was rejected.
Prosecutors have offered Andrea Pia Yates a plea agreement in which she would get a 35-year prison sentence if she pleaded guilty to murder in the drownings of her children, an assistant Harris County district attorney told a judge today.
Prosecutor Joe Owmby told state District Judge Belinda Hill that the offer to let Yates plead guilty to the lesser charge will remain open until 10 days before her second capital murder trial.
Yates, who called Houston police to her Clear Lake-area home in June 2001 and told them she had drowned her five children in the bathtub, is scheduled to stand trial on March 20. She could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
Her attorney, George Parnham, told the judge "I have considered that recommendation laboriously," but added that he has rejected the offer thus far.
Given that Yates is not eligible for the death penalty (since the initial jury rejected it), this wasn't much of a deal for her. Not that I expect Parnham to accept anything less than a guarantee of placement in a real mental facility instead of incarceration, but still. Rulings on the other motions are expected today, so stay tuned.
UPDATE: As I thought, Judge Belinda Hill has ruled in favor of the prosecution on the question of whether or not Park Dietz's erroneous testimony constituted double jeopardy for Yates.
Her decision could affect whether Yates' second capital murder trial in the drownings of her children will be held as scheduled on March 20.
Yates' defense team, headed by George Parnham, had alleged that prosecutors used false testimony to obtain her conviction for the deaths of three of her five children.
Prosecutors countered that the testimony by forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz was simply a mistake and that they did not try to hide it.
No ruling yet on whether it was frivolous or not. If the latter, Parnham can appeal, which would delay the start of the trial for months.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 27, 2006 to Crime and Punishment
I have to think that's posturing by the DA's office. A "plea bargained" 35 year sentence for someone who isn't eligible for the death penalty is really useless.
It's like betting $100 on a coin toss and picking whether it will be heads or tails, and winning $20 if you're right. There is a lot to lose and very little to gain and overall it's a bad gamble.
So I have to think they just want to turn around and say "well, we OFFERED a plea deal, but she turned it down."
Then again, if she took the plea deal, that would *prove* she was insane!
I think the DA's office is offering the wrong coin. Yates doesn't need less time, she needs more treatment.
I think the point is that she would be eligible for parole in 17 years under a 35 year deal versus never being eligible for parole under capital life.
Actually, I believe this case would be controlled by the old life in prison rule, meaning she is eligible for parole after 40 years. So, it is somewhat of a bargain, though how much is debatable.
If she gets capital life, she is eligible for parole in 40 years from the date of conviction plus back time. Didn't Rick Perry veto the proposed capital life without parole. Regardless she would still be sentenced under the law that existed at the time of the offense which is 40 years.
35 years is not that bad of a plea offer for this offense. Their theory is why take it to trial if you can get the 35 and they must think their case has a few holes in it on the insanity issue. Plus Rosenthal or who ever the DA is at her parole hearing would protest her release and she would do at least 25 years on the sentence.
No doubt that she was insane, it is just hard for a jury to find that with the deaths of all those children.
Anything less than 35 years, Rosenthal will get a little egg on his face compared to covered in eggs if the jury finds her insane.
The problem here is that the only coin the DAs are using is time, assuming that, having avoided death, minimizing sentence time is the goal of the defense. Assuming she will need treatment for the rest of her life and will get less adequate treatment in prison than in Huntsville, I'm not sure that getting her into the worse environment for 25 years versus 40 years serves anybody well, including the defense, justice, or her kids.