Mommy Undearest

Andrea Yates acquitted.

Andrea Yates, the Houston woman originally found guilty of drowning her children in a bathtub, was acquitted today in a second trial, held as a result of errors in the first prosecution. The jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity. The defense claimed that Yates, who had attempted suicide twice before the murders, suffered from postpartum psychosis. In 2001, Sally Satel, responding to the Yates case, wrote in Slate about “the so-called baby blues—a transitory period of sadness, irritability, and anxiety that arrives within a week of childbirth.”

Only rarely does postpartum illness develop into psychosis, Satel explained: “When psychotic, the mother may think her baby is evil, that he must be destroyed to save humanity, or she may ‘hear’ God telling her to kill him. Or she may think she’s saving the baby by sending him from this hell-on-earth to heaven. Yates told police her children were ‘damaged,’ but it’s likely that more florid delusions beset her.”