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Thread: Park Dietz

  1. #1

    Park Dietz

    I was pretty surprised to hear about Andrea Yates's conviction being overturned because of misleading testimony from Park Dietz. He is very famous as an expert forensic psychiatrist. Is his career over?

    curiously,
    nutmeg

  2. #2

    Andrea Yates

    Yates' attorneys won't seek release

    Woman to remain in prison after court overturns convictions
    Friday, January 7, 2005 Posted: 8:08 AM EST (1308 GMT)

    (CNN) -- Lawyers for Andrea Yates, the Texas woman convicted nearly three years ago of drowning her children, said Thursday they won't seek her release from a prison psychiatric ward following a court's decision Thursday to overturn her murder convictions.

    The Texas 1st Court of Appeals ruled that the convictions should be reversed because an expert witness for the state, Dr. Park Dietz, presented false testimony when he said Yates may have been influenced by an episode of the "Law & Order" television program. No such episode ever aired.

    In its decision, the court said the testimony by Dietz "could have affected the judgment of the jury."

    George Parnham, Yates' lead attorney, told reporters his client was "surprised and not unpleased" by the ruling. But since Yates -- who had suffered from severe postpartum depression -- is receiving medical treatment in prison, "We are not going to seek her immediate release from where she is.

    "She is in the very best possible place, all things considered, at this time and in this place under these circumstances," Parnham added.

    On June 20, 2001, Yates confessed to police that she drowned her five children in a bathtub because she had been a bad mother who hopelessly damaged them.

    In March 2002 a jury convicted Yates in the drownings of her 6-month-old daughter Mary, and her sons Noah, 7, and John, 5. The charges did not include the deaths of her two other sons, Paul, 3, and Luke, 2.

    The difference between a verdict of guilty and one of not guilty by reason of insanity in the Yates trial hinged on one key issue: whether Yates knew what she was doing when she drowned the children was wrong.

    Both the defense and prosecution agreed Yates is mentally ill, but prosecutors convinced the jury that she was aware that what she was doing was wrong.

    Under Texas law, defendants can be declared not guilty by reason of insanity only if it is determined they did not know right from wrong at the time of the crime.

    Prosecutors now may ask a higher court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, to overturn Thursday's decision. The Harris County district attorney's office did not return a call seeking comment.

    Testimony might have been influential
    Dietz, who worked as consultant for NBC's "Law and Order" program, testified that there was an episode dealing with a woman suffering from postpartum depression who drowned her children in a bathtub and was found to have been insane.

    Yates, now 40, apparently was a fan of the show and watched it regularly.

    Dietz suggested that Yates might have been inspired to kill her children because of that specific episode. But on appeal, the defense said it contacted the producers of the show, who said such an episode was never aired.

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

    The appeals court ruling found that Dietz did not intentionally lie and the prosecution did not knowingly use false testimony.

    Parnham said Dietz' testimony was critical to the prosecution's case.

    George Parnham, right, is shown in August 2001 with Yates during her trial.
    "Only one mental health expert testified that Andrea knew that what she was doing was wrong, and that was the celebrated Park Dietz," he said. "And without his testimony, every other mental health expert ... all testified that she was either incapable of knowing what she was doing was wrong, or did not know what she was doing was wrong."

    Parnham also said he had a "pleasant" talk with Yates' husband, Russell, who filed for divorce in August, about the ruling.

    "He thought that the court had done the right thing, and he wants only mental health care for Andrea," Parnham said.

    Now that a retrial is possible, Parnham emphasized that a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity "does not mean that an individual is released."

    "I am certain that there are circumstances in her future that can be addressed that would be outside four walls of razor wire," he said. But he added, "I don't believe that Andrea will ever be in a position to be free of any type of mental health assistance."

    The Yates case created national debate over the legal standards for mental illness and whether postpartum depression is properly recognized. Women's advocacy groups had harshly criticized prosecutors in the Yates case for seeking the death penalty.

    During her trial, the defense called an expert on postpartum depression in an attempt to show that Yates posed no danger to society.

    Russell Yates accused the court system of victimizing his wife after the medical community had mistreated her by not recognizing how sick she was and not giving her proper treatment.

    According to an Associated Press report, prosecution witness Dietz is a nationally known expert who also took part in such high profile cases as those of Susan Smith, convicted of killing her two children in a South Carolina lake; serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer; and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski

  3. #3

    Park Dietz

    Nutmeg,

    I posted the article so there was some reference. I am so happy about this. I'm doing the happy dance! I hope Dietz loses his credibility and a more competent forensic psychiatrist is used in these cases. I don't believe anyone should be granted innocence for terrible crimes but for those who are severely mentally ill such as this woman, it is an act of cruel and unusual punishment to not deem them insane and redirect them to treatment.

    I have not read a lot of details about this case but I do believe that one of the problems here is with the Texas law and how it is worded.

  4. #4

    Park Dietz

    Maybe a change of career scenery would be good for Dietz, anyway. It's not like being a forensic expert is a dream job for most people.

    However, since he runs two consulting firms, I'm sure he will continue to have enough work to do.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  5. Park Dietz

    Park Dietz was right, except for the evidence about the L&O episode he gave.
    If you see her with her kids in some amateur movie clips it is clear she is sane. She obviously knew right from wrong.
    However, i would like to add that the law in texas should be revised. Any suggestions?

  6. Park Dietz

    Park Dietz was right, except for the evidence about the L&O episode he gave.
    If you see her with her kids in some amateur movie clips it is clear she is sane. She obviously knew right from wrong.
    However, i would like to add that the law in texas should be revised. Any suggestions?

  7. #7

    Park Dietz

    It's Crazy to Execute the Insane
    The Wall Street Journal | March 14, 2002

    By Sally Satel

    It took a little under four hours for a Texas jury on Tuesday to find Andrea Yates guilty of capital murder in the drowning deaths of three of her children. Today the jury will decide whether she gets the death penalty.

    The facts of her case have been headline news since June 2001, when Yates drowned all five of her children in the bathtub of their Houston home. Within an hour after placing the lifeless bodies on her bed, Yates called the police. In the years leading up to the drownings, Yates attempted suicide twice, suffered dark depressions after her children's births, was hospitalized and treated with the anti-psychotic medication Haldol. These and other details strongly suggest that her behavior was the product of delusion -- of postpartum psychosis, to be more precise.

    Andrea Yates

    Immediately after the killings, debate swirled around whether Yates was insane, evil or an everymother pushed to the brink by the combined demands of domesticity and child rearing. Over time, a consensus formed that she was mentally ill. Even most of those who want to see Yates on death row admit that she was profoundly sick when she killed.

    Being psychotic at the time of her crime was not enough, however, for Yates to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. In Texas such a determination turns on whether the defendant knew at the time of the offense that her actions were wrong.

    The prosecution argued that Yates was not insane because she made lots of choices. "She made the choice to fill the tub," prosecutor Kaylynn Williford told the jury. Her calling the police was evidence of her awareness of wrongdoing. Yates was described as "rational" when the police came to her house the day of the crime; she told them where the keys to the backdoor could be found and directed them to clean glasses when they wanted a drink of water.

    It is no surprise that an insane person could do these things. Just because someone is psychotic does not necessarily prevent him from doing everyday things well. I have had many patients who were very psychotic (paranoid, hearing voices, believed they were Joan of Arc) but who could still balance checkbooks and go shopping. One was very diligent at clipping and using Kmart coupons. Someone who has a very low IQ could probably not manage these things smoothly, and people who are demented (think of an advanced Alzheimer's patient) or delirious (someone just coming out of a seizure, or heavily inebriated) cannot manage them at all.

    Had Yates been retarded, demented or delirious, then it is possible she would have not realized she was committing murder. Instead she was psychotic. In my opinion, she knew exactly what she was doing, but -- and this is vital to understanding her psychology -- her purposeful actions were based on a deranged premise. Did she know it was wrong in this narrow sense? I suppose so, but that narrow legal sense is clinically and morally meaningless.

    As she saw it, her choice was not to kill them or let them live happy lives. It was kill them or else subject them to horrifying damnation at the hands of Satan. She saw herself as a poisonous mother -- in jail she wanted to shave her head to see if the 666 sign was still branded on her scalp -- from whom her children should be protected. In this calculus of kill-them-to-save-them, Yates could justify her actions.

    Her case is reminiscent of Russell Weston's. Another high-profile psychotic, he burst into the U.S. Capitol building in 1998 and shot to death two guards. Weston "purposefully" traveled from Montana to Washington so he could dismantle the time-controlling satellite system housed in the Capitol and thus save the world from disaster. His actions flowed logically from his beliefs, but those beliefs were unhinged.

    The law is impervious to these subtleties. The jury's directive -- to discern whether Yates knew that killing her children was wrong -- applies a mistaken conceptual framework to the mindset of a psychotic.

    For the promise of a resolution we should turn to the Supreme Court's recent debate about whether the Constitution permits the execution of the mentally retarded. Of the 38 states with the death penalty, 18 prohibit the execution of the retarded. Last year alone five state legislatures outlawed the practice, and public sentiment is clearly shifting.

    Mentally retarded individuals are considered "least culpable" because they cannot foresee the consequences of their deeds. In 1989 the court decided that executing the mentally retarded did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. At that time only two states banned capital punishment for the retarded, prompting the court to say that there was not sufficient evidence of a "national consensus" that doing so violated the country's "standard of decency."

    If so, standards should shift. States should not subject to the death penalty individuals like Andrea Yates who were deeply psychotic at the time they committed their crime. This is not to say they should be sent back to their homes. Here is an intriguing proposal put forth by mental health advocate D.J. Jaffe.

    Sentence seriously mentally ill offenders to psychiatric treatment for the same length of time one would sentence any other offender. Half way through their sentence -- which would be served in a forensic institution -- they would be eligible for intensive supervised release. The supervision would almost surely include the requirement to take psychiatric medication. This would be especially valuable for individuals who, unlike Yates, did meet the standard for not guilty by reason of insanity and went on to be released from a mental hospital after only a few years without any treatment requirement.

    The Supreme Court decides what is cruel and unusual based on evolving standards of decency as understood by society at large. If the Texas jury gives Yates a death sentence tomorrow, it will be a sure sign that those standards have not yet evolved as much as they should.

  8. #8

    Park Dietz

    It's Crazy to Execute the Insane
    The Wall Street Journal | March 14, 2002

    By Sally Satel

    It took a little under four hours for a Texas jury on Tuesday to find Andrea Yates guilty of capital murder in the drowning deaths of three of her children. Today the jury will decide whether she gets the death penalty.

    The facts of her case have been headline news since June 2001, when Yates drowned all five of her children in the bathtub of their Houston home. Within an hour after placing the lifeless bodies on her bed, Yates called the police. In the years leading up to the drownings, Yates attempted suicide twice, suffered dark depressions after her children's births, was hospitalized and treated with the anti-psychotic medication Haldol. These and other details strongly suggest that her behavior was the product of delusion -- of postpartum psychosis, to be more precise.

    Andrea Yates

    Immediately after the killings, debate swirled around whether Yates was insane, evil or an everymother pushed to the brink by the combined demands of domesticity and child rearing. Over time, a consensus formed that she was mentally ill. Even most of those who want to see Yates on death row admit that she was profoundly sick when she killed.

    Being psychotic at the time of her crime was not enough, however, for Yates to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. In Texas such a determination turns on whether the defendant knew at the time of the offense that her actions were wrong.

    The prosecution argued that Yates was not insane because she made lots of choices. "She made the choice to fill the tub," prosecutor Kaylynn Williford told the jury. Her calling the police was evidence of her awareness of wrongdoing. Yates was described as "rational" when the police came to her house the day of the crime; she told them where the keys to the backdoor could be found and directed them to clean glasses when they wanted a drink of water.

    It is no surprise that an insane person could do these things. Just because someone is psychotic does not necessarily prevent him from doing everyday things well. I have had many patients who were very psychotic (paranoid, hearing voices, believed they were Joan of Arc) but who could still balance checkbooks and go shopping. One was very diligent at clipping and using Kmart coupons. Someone who has a very low IQ could probably not manage these things smoothly, and people who are demented (think of an advanced Alzheimer's patient) or delirious (someone just coming out of a seizure, or heavily inebriated) cannot manage them at all.

    Had Yates been retarded, demented or delirious, then it is possible she would have not realized she was committing murder. Instead she was psychotic. In my opinion, she knew exactly what she was doing, but -- and this is vital to understanding her psychology -- her purposeful actions were based on a deranged premise. Did she know it was wrong in this narrow sense? I suppose so, but that narrow legal sense is clinically and morally meaningless.

    As she saw it, her choice was not to kill them or let them live happy lives. It was kill them or else subject them to horrifying damnation at the hands of Satan. She saw herself as a poisonous mother -- in jail she wanted to shave her head to see if the 666 sign was still branded on her scalp -- from whom her children should be protected. In this calculus of kill-them-to-save-them, Yates could justify her actions.

    Her case is reminiscent of Russell Weston's. Another high-profile psychotic, he burst into the U.S. Capitol building in 1998 and shot to death two guards. Weston "purposefully" traveled from Montana to Washington so he could dismantle the time-controlling satellite system housed in the Capitol and thus save the world from disaster. His actions flowed logically from his beliefs, but those beliefs were unhinged.

    The law is impervious to these subtleties. The jury's directive -- to discern whether Yates knew that killing her children was wrong -- applies a mistaken conceptual framework to the mindset of a psychotic.

    For the promise of a resolution we should turn to the Supreme Court's recent debate about whether the Constitution permits the execution of the mentally retarded. Of the 38 states with the death penalty, 18 prohibit the execution of the retarded. Last year alone five state legislatures outlawed the practice, and public sentiment is clearly shifting.

    Mentally retarded individuals are considered "least culpable" because they cannot foresee the consequences of their deeds. In 1989 the court decided that executing the mentally retarded did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. At that time only two states banned capital punishment for the retarded, prompting the court to say that there was not sufficient evidence of a "national consensus" that doing so violated the country's "standard of decency."

    If so, standards should shift. States should not subject to the death penalty individuals like Andrea Yates who were deeply psychotic at the time they committed their crime. This is not to say they should be sent back to their homes. Here is an intriguing proposal put forth by mental health advocate D.J. Jaffe.

    Sentence seriously mentally ill offenders to psychiatric treatment for the same length of time one would sentence any other offender. Half way through their sentence -- which would be served in a forensic institution -- they would be eligible for intensive supervised release. The supervision would almost surely include the requirement to take psychiatric medication. This would be especially valuable for individuals who, unlike Yates, did meet the standard for not guilty by reason of insanity and went on to be released from a mental hospital after only a few years without any treatment requirement.

    The Supreme Court decides what is cruel and unusual based on evolving standards of decency as understood by society at large. If the Texas jury gives Yates a death sentence tomorrow, it will be a sure sign that those standards have not yet evolved as much as they should.

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