Attorneys began questioning 120 potential jurors Thursday for the second murder trial of Andrea Yates, the Houston mother accused of drowning her five young children in a bathtub.
Yates, whose 2002 conviction was overturned on appeal last year, was in the courtroom for the jury selection. Opening statements are scheduled for Monday.
As she did in her first trial, Yates, 41, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the June 20, 2001, drowning deaths.
Yates earlier conviction was thrown out because of erroneous testimony from a key prosecution witness, a psychiatrist who was a consultant on the “Law & Order” television series.
Dr. Park Dietz had told jurors that an episode depicting a woman who drowned her children in a bathtub — and was acquitted by reason of insanity — aired before the Yates children were killed. Attorneys later learned that no such episode existed.
In both trials, Yates was charged only in the deaths of 6-month-old Mary, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah. Her sons Luke, 2, and Paul, 3, were also drowned in the family’s bathtub that day.
If convicted of capital murder, Yates will be sentenced to life in prison. The first jury rejected the death penalty, and prosecutors cannot seek death again because they did not find new evidence.
Yates’ attorney George Parnham argues his client is mentally ill and maintains that severe postpartum psychosis prevented her from knowing that drowning her children was wrong.
Prosecutors insist Yates doesn’t meet Texas’ legal definition of insanity: not knowing at the time that one’s actions are wrong. They have said they planned to present the same evidence of how Yates killed the children after her husband left for work and before her mother-in-law arrived to help care for the kids, and how Yates called 911 to report the crime.