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Justice has been served by the finding of a Texas jury today that Andrea Yates is “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI) in the tragic deaths of her children five years ago.
Too often, tragedies are only compounded by tragedies. In this case, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) trusts that Andrea Yates will get the treatment she needs in a secure and appropriate psychiatric hospital. Even if she is released at some future point in time, she will likely be subject to continual court monitoring.
Andrea Yates was sick. We praise the jury for recognizing that fact.
NAMI hopes the two trials and ultimate verdict in the case have contributed to a broader public recognition and understanding of severe mental illnesses, particularly postpartum depression, psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions.
NGRI defenses are rarely raised and rarely succeed. The criminal justice system usually is ill-suited to address issues involving mental illness as it tries to impose legal logic on biological irrationality.
Human tragedies must lead not simply to individual trials. Broader inquiries are needed, particularly to determine where the mental healthcare system may have failed prior to those tragedies that do occur.
Whatever else happens to Andrea Yates, her children will have died in vain, unless we as a society address that fundamental concern.
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