On a Much More Serious Note

I am conflicted about how I feel about the Andrea Yates decision. (She was recently found not guilty by reason of insanity, after her guilty verdict from 2002 was overturned and she was retried.)

First and foremost, I feel profound sadness. Whatever was going on in her mind that day, 5 children were systematically drowned, one after the other, in the bathtub.

On the one hand, I feel like this is the right decision. Post partum depression and post partum psychosis are real ilnesses, and should be treated as such. More people must accept that depression (in its various forms) is not “sadness” and is not simply a matter of “willpower” but is due to actual chemical imbalances in the brain. It is a disease. I find it heartening and important that a Jury was able to see past the unspeakable horror and see the woman for what she is: diseased.

Furthermore, she will be dealing with this the rest of her life. The worst prison she can be in is the prison of her memories. Every time she experiences a moment of clarity (I honestly don’t know her mental state now), she will surely be thrust right back into the darkness as she remembers once again what she’s done.

The conflict? It’s with my retributive side. It’s the adolescent in me, whose first gut reaction when he read the story, after the shock and horror (which, by the way, is only starker now that I am a parent myself) was “fry this woman.” But the truth is, I see the value of an insanity defense. And I know the worst punishment she can get she will give to herself. This is not an evil woman. Society doesn’t benefit from seeking vengeance from her.

Society does benefit from learning from her experience, and removing the “it’s all in your head, snap out of it” stigma associated with depression and psychosis. The recent jury decision is a good step in that direction.


9 responses to “On a Much More Serious Note

  1. I think it’s case-specific but I agree with you on this one.


  2. What’s case specific? Depression or the insanity defense?

  3. Speaking of which, how sad is that story of the frum girl from the Upper West Side?

  4. And, Noyam, I had no idea you put up two new posts! I’ve been busy with the Age Old Question

  5. Would you know how old her youngest was when the crime was committed?

  6. Ok the answer is about 4 months later. I was going to comment on postpartum depression and psychosis, but its way to big a topic. Briefly, it seems Yates already had some forms of psychiatric illness in the years prior, and cetainly women with psych illness are at greater risk for postpartum depressions and psychosis.

  7. Insanity Defense. There are many cases where it’s a fine line. From what I have read, this one is not one of them. I feel so bad for people in these situations (like the girl on the WS) b/c there are plenty of options in terms of help but they oviously can’t get over the hump to even attempt to get help. Tragically sad.


  8. Where did you find it? Interesting read »

  9. Pingback: Depression and Stigma « The Noy G Show

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