Houston Chronicle

Aug. 22, 2001, 3:17PM

Yates competency hearing reset for Sept. 12

By LISA TEACHEY
Houston Chronicle

A competency hearing for Andrea Pia Yates, the Clear Lake mother accused of drowning her five children, has been rescheduled for Sept. 12.

Yates, 37, faces capital murder charges in the deaths of three of her children -- sons Noah, 7, John, 5, and Mary, 6 months. Although she is not charged with the other children's deaths, prosecutors have said they plan to present evidence about the deaths of Paul, 3, and Luke, 2, during trial.

The mother, who home-schooled her children, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

State District Judge Belinda Hill has ruled a separate jury must first decide whether Yates is competent to stand trial.

The competency hearing originally had been set to begin next week. A court official said the date was changed Tuesday afternoon. Hill, who has imposed a gag order on all parties involved, was not in court today.

A court-appointed psychologist has found that Yates is competent. But doctors for the defense say otherwise.

Under Texas law, a defendant can stand trial only if he meets a legal definition of competency, meaning he understands the charges against him and can aid lawyers in his defense.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is seeking the death penalty. He said it is to allow jurors the options for a full range of punishment.

Houston police said Yates called them to her home in the 900 block of Beachcomber on June 20 and admitted drowning the children in the family bathtub.

Yates remains under suicide watch in the psychiatric unit of the Harris County Jail. Her husband, Russell Yates, told police investigators she suffers from severe depression.

Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle