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Court throws out Andrea Yates' conviction in drowning of three of her children

Associated Press, Various newspapers in U.S.A. and Canada, Thu January 6, 2005

HOUSTON (AP) - Andrea Yates' murder convictions for drowning her children were overturned Thursday by an appeals court, which ruled a prosecution expert witness gave false testimony at her trial.

Yates' lawyers had argued at a hearing last month before a three-judge panel of the First Court of Appeals in Houston that psychiatrist Park Dietz was wrong when he said he consulted on an episode of the TV show Law and Order involving a woman found not guilty by reason of insanity for drowning her children.

After jurors found Yates guilty, lawyers in the case and jurors learned no such episode existed.

"We conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that Dr. Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury," the court ruled. "We further conclude that Dr. Dietz's false testimony affected the substantial rights of appellant."

Jurors in 2002 sentenced Yates to life in prison in the 2001 deaths of three of her children. She was not tried in the deaths of the other two.