As I read through the recent coverage of the Andrea Yates trial, I have to ask something: Is the prosecution not bothering to cross-examine any of these defense witnesses, or has there just been nothing to come out of the cross examinations that the Chron reporters deem to be newsworthy? Maybe they're just asking perfucntory questions and not really casting any doubt on the direct testimony, as the defense did with the woman who was once Yates' cellmate. I don't know, I can't tell - there's just no mention of any questions being asked by the prosecutors. It's a little strange.
I wish I could remember how the first trial went - I was in my early days as a blogger, but didn't follow the story much, so I've got no recall of it. I just feel like the DA isn't quite going after her as aggressively this time, what with their case in chief being so short, and with the lack of anything revelatory on cross. Maybe that's the result of not having the death penalty on the table, I don't know. I may have to do a little Chron archive searching to see how Trial 2.0 compares to the original. If you remember better or have any thoughts on this, please leave a comment.
One new item to the defense case is the testimony of staffers at the Devereux Texas Treatment Network care facility in League City, where Yates was a patient after the birth of Mary, her fifth child.
During her stays at Devereux, Yates expressed a need to return home so she could tend to her children, but could not make eye contact with them when they came to visit her at the hospital, jurors learned.
During one family visit, Yates appeared stiff and unresponsive when her then-husband, Russell Yates, announced it was "time" for her to hold their infant daughter, said [nurse Sherry] Steinocher, a former Devereux employee now working in the Alvin school district.
Steinocher described cupping the unresponsive mother's hands and moving them so bystanders could place the baby in her arms. Despite the staff's concerns, Russell Yates insisted his wife would not drop the baby, Steinocher said.
"She was sitting with her hands in her lap. She wouldn't respond to the baby ... (There was) nothing, no look (on her face). She never gave the baby any eye contact. There was nothing," Steinocher said Friday.
Bystanders propped up a baby bottle with hopes of interesting Yates in feeding her daughter, but "we just gave up because we couldn't get Mrs. Yates to respond," Steinocher said.
Steinocher also revealed Devereux administrators held staff meetings in the days following the Yates' children's deaths. While Steinocher was not allowed to tell the jury any details about those meetings, Parnham later confirmed that Devereux staffers were told they had better keep quiet about the Yates case.
Steinocher, in fact, was in such emotional turmoil that she begged defense attorneys not to subpoena her for Yates' new trial, Parnham said. The nurse just met with Yates' attorneys for the first time three weeks ago.
She recalled that Yates was on "suicide watch" while at Devereux and rarely spoke, even when asked specific questions.
"Mrs. Yates was afraid to eat. She clenched her teeth so hard that her jaws would pop. She had a look of terror in her eyes as the fork or spoon came toward her," Steinocher said.
Another former Devereux employee testifying for the first time Friday - licensed clinical social worker Barbara Roberts - said she concluded Yates could not care for her children by herself.
"I didn't believe she was able to function and take care of all those needs on her own. She needed some kind of help," Roberts told the jury.
Roberts described Yates as "the sickest person I've ever seen in a mental hospital," but said the severely depressed woman would not discuss her thoughts.
On a side note, apparently the defense is holding back Rusty Yates for the rebuttal phase of the trial. Maybe it's in this phase that the prosecutors will really go after the defense's story. We'll see.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 09, 2006 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack