*** Standard Disclaimer about Opinions ***
*** and not reading too much into them ***
While I am quite willing to acknowledge that mental illness is real and can be a contributing or mitigating factor in a crime, I don't feel that a crime as substantial as this could or should be excused in any way.
Andrea Yates didn't just kill one child (in which case we might think that she just snapped), she didn't kill all of her kids by running the mini-van into a brick wall (again she might have snapped). She systematically EXECUTED all of her children, one after another by drowning them (certainly not a painless way to die).
We keep focusing on what Mrs. Yates was feeling and thinking, but what about her children? What about her seven year old who realized that his MOTHER was hurting him. What about his brothers and sisters waiting their turn? How much pain and suffering did she cause her children as she killed them? What would you be feeling and thinking if your mother set out to kill you when you were a child? How can any sort of mother do something like this and then have the nerve to defend herself by claiming to be insane. We know that she's insane, the question is, should it matter in a crime like this?
Perhaps it's that evil conservative streak in me, but I think that there are some crimes that should never be excusable due to insanity or not thinking right. Poor Andrea Yates, she's insane. To be quite honest, I don't care. She had ample opportunities to get help for her situation and she choose to commit this crime. She took steps to make the crime easier for herself. Maybe if we, as a society, finally say "Enough, there are some things that you cannot, ever, justify" people like Andrea Yates won't take their treatment for granted and they won't rely on being found insane when they commit crimes.
As an explanation of this stand to those few friend that I'm likely to have after a rant like that :)... I guess it's just that I have some first hand knowledge (both personal and from people I'm close to) about what it means to be not entirely stable all the time. To some extent I take offense that someone can do something like this and then try to use the insanity defense. Quite frankly, I think that once you decide to do something like this (regardless of whether or not you "knew at the time that it was righr or wrong") the most correct thing to do would be to admit that you did it and then enter a no-lo plea. Once you start putting on a defense, you're making excuses and that's crap. What possible excuse could really answer for what she did?
I think sometimes in cases like this we focus too completely on the defendant and they are portrayed as victims when in fact the are anything but. Is it unfair that she's had mental problems to the extent that she did? Yes. Was her day to day life harder than most? Probably. Did her children deserve to die because of it? I don't think so. If she checked herself into a mental hospital after trying to commit suicide, then I would be all for helping her and trying to improve her life. If she smacked her kids and then asked for help because she was losing control, again, I'm all for the helping. However once she kills her five children I think she's put herself clearly out of range of any help anyone could give her.
At that point perhaps the only thing that can be done is to show other people what can happen if they don't seek help sooner (and stick with it once they do start). Whether it's life in prison or the death penalty perhaps if this case shows that the insanity plea will only accepted in very specific cases, you would see people getting help instead of doing some of the really crazy things that we hear about on the 11 o'clock news.