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Monday
Jun202011

Lawyer Argues for Andrea Yates Release

BRET COOMER/AFP/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Ten years ago on Monday, Andrea Yates called 911 after drowning her five children in the family's bathtub and admitted to the first police officer to arrive at her Houston home, "I just killed my kids."

Now, Yates is being treated in a minimum-security mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas, from which her longtime lawyer, George Parnham, says he's "highly optimistic" she will be released after her recommitment hearing in November.

The first step is to secure the recommendation of her doctors. "I think that this year the doctors will recommend a regimen of therapy in a community-based outpatient facility," says Parnham.

Controversial as her case has been, Yates' attorney and friends argue her mental health is much improved after years of treatment and medication for postpartum psychosis and other conditions. Initially committed to the maximum-security North Texas State Hospital Vernon Campus, Yates was transferred to Kerrville in 2007.

"When this first happened, she was severely mentally ill and would experience extreme sickness at around this time each year," says Parnham.

But with therapy and treatments including anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication such as Effexor, one friend who regularly visits Yates says, "She's come full circle and she's really well."

The highly publicized trials of Yates in 2002 and 2006 focused the nation's attention on postpartum psychosis and the nation's insanity laws. During her first trial, Yates' attorneys argued that she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and delusion. She believed Satan was inside her, and that killing her children would save them from hell. Although she was initially found guilty, the appeals court later overturned the verdict.

In her second trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. At the time, defense lawyer Parnham described the verdict as "a watershed event in the treatment of mental illness."

After years of waiving the right to the hearing, Parnham plans to go before the court this year to argue that Yates is no longer dangerous to herself or others, and that her mental condition will not deteriorate if she is released. A judge or jury will eventually determine whether Yates meets these standards.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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