AP

SEPTEMBER 11, 12:33 EDT

Hearing for Houston Mother Postponed
By PAM EASTON
Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON (AP) — The competency hearing for Andrea Yates, the Houston mother accused of drowning her five children, was postponed Tuesday in the wake of the terrorism attacks in New York and Washington.

Jurors were assembling at the Harris County Courthouse when the selection process was put off for a week. They were told to return Sept. 18.

Yates, 37, is accused of two counts of capital murder for the deaths of three of her children at their home in June. Prosecutors say she methodically drowned all five children in the family's bathtub. Defense attorneys say their client was suffering from severe mental illness.

Yates is being held in the psychiatric unit of Harris County Jail.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty. In Texas, prosecutors typically forgo multiple capital murder charges since only one conviction is generally needed for the maximum penalty.

Yates' lawyers have submitted hundreds of pages of medical records detailing Yates' treatment for depression, postpartum depression and showing two suicide attempts after the birth of her fourth child.

The records show Yates wanted to kill herself to keep from hurting someone else. She told doctors she had her first homicidal thought after the birth of her first child, but ``blew it off.''

If Yates is found competent to stand trial, another jury will determine her degree of responsibility and whether she was insane at the time of the killings. If she is found incompetent, jurors must determine if it is likely that she will regain competence.

Otherwise the state is barred from proceeding with the criminal prosecution, said Brian Serr, a Baylor University Law School professor. Yates could be committed to a mental institution for up to 18 months to try to reach competency, Serr said. Progress reports come every 90 days.

Prosecutors said a court-ordered evaluation last month determined Yates is competent to stand trial. Her attorneys have asked to review evidence used by the doctor.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press.