March 14, 2002
ADA Joseph S. Owmby
ADA Kaylynn Williford
Harris County District Attorney's Office
1201 Franklin Street
Houston, TX 77002
Re: State of Texas v. Andrea Pia Yates
Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 88025
Dear Mr. Owmby and Ms. Williford:
It has been brought to my attention that I was incorrect in an answer I gave during cross-examination. I was asked whether either of the two television series to which I consult (Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) deals with postpartum depression or women's mental health. I answered, "As a matter of fact, there was a show of a woman with postpartum depression who drowned her children in the bathtub and was found insane, and it was aired shortly before this crime occurred."
I am informed that Dick Wolf and all of the executive producers for the series Law & Order conducted an exhaustive search of every episode ever produced (269 in all) and could not identify any episode with these facts.
My memory about the content of the show was incorrect. I was confounding the facts of three filicide cases I worked on (Susan Smith, Amy Grossberg, and Melissa Drexler) and two episodes of Law & Order that were based in part on those cases:
(1) The first episode I had in mind, entitled "Angel," was based in part on the Susan Smith case. In the Law & Order episode, however, the woman did not drown her child, but smothered it. Although she told Det. Curtis that the baby was in heaven, entered a plea of insanity, and claimed that God directed her to kill the child, this defense was unsuccessful in the episode. I am informed that this episode, which originally aired on NBC in 1995, was not aired shortly before the Yates homicides. The most proximal airings that could be identified by the producers were on January 24, 2001, nearly five months before the Yates homicides, and on June 22, 2001, two days after the Yates homicides.
(2) The episode with which I was confounding "Angel" is entitled "Denial" and was based in part on the Amy Grossberg and Melissa Drexler cases. In the episode, it was unclear whether the baby had been killed by the mother or the father and whether it was stillborn or smothered. Both parents were acquitted in separate trials, but not by reason of insanity. According to the producers, this episode, which originally aired in 1997, was aired on May 28, 2001, about three weeks prior to the Yates homicides.
My answer thus confounded (a) the drownings by Susan Smith, (b) the insanity claim in "Angel," and (c) the acquittal in and airdate of "Denial." Moreover, I was wrong as to the location being a bathtub in the episode.
I also wish to clarify that Mrs. Yates said nothing to me about either episode or about the Law & Order series. The only mention of Law & Order in my 103-page report on Mrs. Yates is the statement that Rusty Yates told Dr. Rubenzer on July 25, 2001, that Mrs. Yates watched every episode of Law & Order.
Finally, I will state for the record that although I have been an outspoken critic of the media for irresponsible coverage of crimes, particularly crimes with copycat potential, I have always found the writers and producers of Law & Order socially responsible in their portrayal of crime and unusually responsive to suggestions that they modify scripts so as to reduce any potential for causing crimes. I do not believe that watching Law & Order played any causal role in Mrs. Yates' drowning of her children.
Park Dietz, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO