Rebekah Sanders, a Harris County woman, is believed to have shot her two children before turning the gun on herself. When reading about this on the internet one cannot help but be reminded of the well-known case of Andrea Yates. Back in 2001, Yates murdered her five children by drowning each of them in a bath tub. It was later found that prior to the killings Yates had been diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Two months prior to the killings she had been hospitalized for mutilating herself while feverishly reading the Bible. Yates later told a psychiatrist that she killed her children because she knew that they would be damned to the “fires of hell” if she continued raising them herself.
Despite evidence of severe mental illness, in 2002 a jury rejected Yates’s claim that she had been insane at the time of the murders, and sentenced her to life in prison. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later reversed her convictions and ordered a new trial. At her second trial, the jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity.
In Texas, the legal standard for insanity is that at the time of an offense, the accused, as a result of a mental disease or defect, did not know his or her conduct was wrong. This is more commonly known as the insanity defense. This defense is rarely used in court proceedings, and it even less rarely results in an acquittal. The main reason for this is that the standard is very strict. A person can be clinically insane (meaning that a medical doctor might believe the person to be insane), but not legally insane. If a person is acquitted by reason of insanity, that person can likely look forward to spending a long time (perhaps the rest of his or her life) in a State mental hospital.