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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 21:05 GMT
Texas mother gets life sentence
Andrea Yates
Yates claimed she was insane when she killed the children
A jury in Texas has decided that a mother convicted of killing her children should not face the death penalty.

A majority of jurors decided that 37-year-old Andrea Yates did not pose a danger to society, and sentenced her to life imprisonment.

Andrea Yates with her husband and four of her slain children
Yates drowned her children in a bathtub in the family's home
Mrs Yates admitted drowning her five children last year but her defence claimed she was insane at the time.

She held her children under water in the bathtub until they ceased struggling, just four months after she was released from renewed hospital treatment for severe depression following childbirth.

The former nurse will have to serve at least 40 years in jail before she is eligible for parole.

'Act of love'

On Tuesday jurors rejected Yates' claims of insanity and convicted her of the capital murder of seven-year-old Noah, five-year-old John and six-month-old Mary.

Charges have not been filed in the deaths of three-year-old Paul, and two-year-old Luke.

Russell Yates
Yates' husband has stood by her throughout
In the sentencing stage, the 12 jurors who convicted Yates were asked two questions: whether Yates was a danger to society, and if so were there mitigating circumstances that warranted a life sentence rather than death by legal injection.

Both sides acknowledged that Yates was mentally ill.

And in testimony before the court on Thursday her defence team argued that what she had done was an act of delusional love, as she believed that by killing them she would save them from the Devil.

Swift decision

On Thursday, prosecutors had offered no evidence or testimony for the punishment phase of the trial, a point stressed by defence attorneys during their concluding arguments.

"She is not a danger to society. She does not have a criminal's mind, not an inherently evil person," Yates' lawyer Wendell Odom said.

"The state brings you no professional, no expert to tell you this woman is a future danger," Mr Odom said.

The jury took just 40 minutes to reach their decision sparing Yates' life.

Following the verdict Yates turned to her family, smiled and whispered "I'm okay".

The BBC's Michael Buchanan in Houston
"Her family have stood by her throughout"
See also:

25 Jun 01 | Americas
Texan child murderer 'psychotic'
27 Jun 01 | Americas
Drowned children buried in Texas
21 Jun 01 | Health
Post-natal depression
21 Jun 01 | Americas
Neighbours' shock at baby killings
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