In the wake of the second trial of Andrea Yates, in which she was acquitted by reason of insanity for the murder of her five children, The Houston Chronicle wants us to throw out what it calls the “restrictive, outdated” Texas law that requires juries to find a defendant guilty if she knew the difference between right and wrong in favor of one in which there must be a finding that she could “appreciate the wrongfulness” of her actions, a change unsuccessfully proposed during the last legislative session. I disagree, although I respect the decision of Ms. Yates’ peers in a very difficult set of facts in this case, which no doubt encompassed at least some culpability on the part of her negligent husband. She should never be out of confinement and, if that is the outcome, it makes little difference to me where she spends this confinement. The important issue here is the message we have sent—not guilty of murder, and the best solution for future cases that I have seen is one suggested by both Mike Gallagher and Mona Charen: Even the insane must take responsibility for their actions, so let’s establish in law a new choice of verdict—guilty, but insane.
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