ACLU Applauds Jury Decision to Spare Andrea Yates' Life

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
March 15, 2002 12:00 am

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Statement of Diann Rust-Tierney, Director
ACLU Capital Punishment Project


WASHINGTON — We are relieved that Andrea Yates will not face death for the senseless tragedy that occurred in Texas last summer. Yates is a woman suffering from serious mental illness and her possible execution should never have been an option. It took a Harris County Texas jury less than an hour to reach this conclusion. A nagging question however remains: how long will it take for Texas prosecutors and lawmakers to recognize the need for more restraint in seeking the death penalty?

The Yates case — and particularly its sentencing phase — has been the center of national discussion over the past several days. Opinion makers, citizens and editorial writers from across the country called for life for Yates, recognizing that a further tragedy would have occurred if a mentally disturbed woman were sentenced to death. Further, it is likely that had Yates been tried in another state with more realistic laws regarding the definition of insanity, or a less trigger-happy approach to capital punishment, the question of her life or death would never have entered into the courtroom.

Now that the immediate crisis is over, it is time for the people in the state of Texas, as well as across the country, to take an even closer look at an increasingly ridiculed Texas judicial system.

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