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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January 2005, 22:27 GMT
US killer mother verdict quashed
Andrea Yates, her husband, and four of the children she killed
Andrea Yates had a history of depression
A US woman who drowned her five children has had her murder convictions quashed after a court dismissed the evidence of an expert at her trial.

The appeal court in Texas said errors in the testimony of a psychiatrist could have affected the jury's verdict.

The psychiatrist had compared Andrea Yates' case with an episode of a television crime drama. Afterwards, it was found that no such episode existed.

Mrs Yates, who was jailed for life in 2002, faces a possible retrial.

It is not clear whether she will be released in the meantime.

Mrs Yates' lawyers argued at a hearing last month that psychiatrist Park Dietz had given false testimony when he told her trial he had acted as consultant to the TV show "Law & Order", on an episode in which a woman is found not guilty of drowning her children because she is insane.

There is a reasonable likelihood that Dr Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury
Houston court

It was said at the trial that Mrs Yates was a fan of the series.

But Dr Deitz later said he was mistaken and that he had been involved in a different programme.

"We conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that Dr Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury," the appeal court in Houston, Texas, ruled.

Killed one by one

Prosecutors said they hoped to appeal against the ruling.

Mrs Yates was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 over the deaths of three of her children the year before. She was not tried over the deaths of the other two.

She had called police to her home on 20 June, 2001, and showed them the bodies of Noah, seven, John, five, Paul, three, Luke, two, and six-month-old Mary.

She admitted drowning them one by one after calling them into the bathroom.

With a record of depression and attempted suicide, prosecutors acknowledged she was mentally ill but argued successfully that she could tell right from wrong and was not legally insane.

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