Attorney asks judge to prohibit children’s pictures

HOUSTON (AP) – The image of 7-year-old Noah Yates floating face down in the murky brown water that filled a bathtub after he and his four siblings were drowned is something Andrea Yates’ defense attorney doesn’t want jurors to see during her second capital murder trial.

Yates’ attorney George Parnham filed 30 pretrial motions, which were made public Monday, including one requesting “any and all photographs” of her children not be shown to jurors during the trial set to begin March 20.

Parnham claims the photographs could cause jurors to be unfairly prejudiced or serve to confuse and mislead them.

Prosecutor Alan Curry said the images are evidence of Andrea Yates’ crime.

“It is not unusual for us in a murder case to introduce photographs of the victims,” Curry said. “They are unpleasant to look at because we are involved in a murder case.”

During Yates’ original trial, state District Judge Belinda Hill allowed jurors to see photographs of the children and a crime scene video taken by police investigators.

Curry said he anticipates Hill will again allow the photographs and video, adding the judge has been cautious in determining which images should be allowed.

Hill has scheduled a motion hearing for Friday.

Jurors rejected Yates’ original insanity defense in 2002 and sentenced her to life in prison for the June 2001 drowning deaths of three of her five children.

Her two capital murder convictions, however, were overturned by an appeals court last year based on false testimony from an expert witness. Her case was then sent back to district court for a new trial.

Yates faces two capital murder charges for the drowning deaths of 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John and the youngest, 6-month-old Mary. Evidence was presented about the drownings of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2, but Yates was not charged in their deaths.

She has again entered an innocent by reason of insanity plea.

Parnham is also seeking to suppress Yates’ confession to police following the drownings and to declare the state’s insanity standard unconstitutional. He was unsuccessful on both fronts during Yates’ original trial.

Parnham also would like for prosecutors to be prohibited from making any comments about Yates’ children, which suggest “directly or indirectly” that their lives were “more valuable than the life of the defendant.”

Curry said he doesn’t anticipate prosecutors would ever argue one life is more valuable than another, but said prosecutors believe Yates’ children’s lives “have kind-of been forgotten.”

Additionally, Parnham and prosecutors would like the opportunity to do more in-depth questioning of potential jurors. And Parnham has requested the court order prosecutors to provide him with communications they had with their expert witness Park Dietz, who incorrectly testified about an episode of “Law & Order” during Yates’ original trial.

Dietz’s testimony led to Yates capital murder convictions being overturned last year.

Parnham would like to be able to individually question potential jurors, which was done during Yates’ original trial when jurors considered the death penalty as a possible punishment.

If jurors convict Yates again, the death penalty will not be an option since it was rejected by the initial jury panel.

Because individual questioning is not required in a non-death penalty case, Curry said prosecutors would like to have jurors to fill out a questionnaire as part of the jury selection process.

Yates, 41, is at a state hospital in East Texas, where she voluntarily admitted herself after posting $200,000 bond earlier this month.

During her 2002 trial, psychiatrists testified Yates suffered from schizophrenia and postpartum depression, but expert witnesses disagreed over the severity of her illness and whether it prevented her from knowing that drowning her children was wrong.

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