HOUSTON -- Jurors asked to rehear a portion of a psychologist's testimony about a Houston mother accused of drowning her five children and the woman's understanding of her role in their deaths.
The jury, made up of 11 women and one man, was ordered to return to court Saturday after nearly five hours of deliberations to determine whether Andrea Yates, 37, is fit to stand trial on two charges of capital murder in the June deaths of her children.
After more than four hours of discussions Friday, the jury asked that a portion of Dr. Steven Rubenzer's testimony be read back to them.
"Would it be fair to say, the better she gets, given everything you know, the more fully she will appreciate what she did?" defense attorney George Parnham asked the psychologist during cross-examination this week.
"I think so," Rubenzer responded.
"She's not quite there yet, is she?" Parnham asked.
"I don't think so," responded the court-appointed psychologist, who testified Yates is competent to stand trial.
During closing arguments Friday, Parnham told jurors they should find Yates incompetent to stand trial so she can continue to recover from the psychotic features of her mental illness.
"What's the rush?" Parnham said. "Give her the benefit of the ability to be cognizant of what she did ... to be able to defend herself in a proper manner."
Parnham said there is no question that Yates will eventually be tried if jurors find her incompetent now.
Prosecutor Joe Owmby said defense attorneys are confusing the issues.
"The issue is whether she is presently competent, not whether she has a mental disease," Owmby argued. "She has to have a trial, and she's competent to have that trial today."
During Owmby's closing arguments, Yates' husband, Russell, sat in the front row and shook his head, indicating 'no', but stopped after a warning from the judge.
Jurors will have to decide whether Andrea Yates meets the two prongs of competency: a sufficient present ability to consult with her lawyer with a reasonable degree of understanding and a factual as well as rational understanding of the charges against her.
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