The Gazette (Montreal)

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Women are getting away with murder

Montreal Gazette

Andrea Pia Yates has one thing going for her. She's not a man. If a depressed father took five of his children and drowned them one after the other in the bathtub, he wouldn't be receiving much sympathy.

When mass murderer Marc Lepine killed 14 innocent women, he was rightfully dismissed as a monster who had committed a heinous act. L?pine was a hate-filled killer, guilty of committing a vicious and despicable crime.

It's politically incorrect to generalize about ethnic groups, but men are open season.

Feminists didn't just point the finger at Lepine. They said all men were to blame.

In the case of mass murderer Andrea Yates, no one is blaming all women. They're not even blaming Andrea Yates.

The 37-year-old registered nurse killed her own children. Her 7-year-old son Noah walked in to see his mother in the midst of drowning his 6-month-old sister , holding her tiny body under water until the helpless infant finally stopped struggling.

The terrified little boy tried in vain to escape. Andrea caught him and forced his head under the water until he drowned.

She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Her supporters claim she was psychotic and delusional because of postpartum depression.

In Texas, the prosecution does not have to prove Andrea was sane. It is her lawyers who must prove she was unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the crime. That won't be easy since she made a point to call police

Women who commit violent crimes are often depicted as victims of patriarchy.

If patriarchy continues to have such a horrific impact on women, why is the suicide rate so much higher for men?

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, 72 per cent of all suicide deaths in 1998 were white men. Among those in the 20 to 24 age bracket, men were six times more likely to commit suicide.

The U.S. National Organization for Women, which is busily rallying support for Yates, has adopted a resolution calling for the judiciary to "consider tragedies of this sort in the full context of the nature of postpartum depression."

The feminist organization is calling for more research into the illness.

How about calling for research to find out why 70 per cent of confirmed cases of child abuse and 65 per cent of parental murders of children are committed by mothers?

Those stats come from the United States Department of Justice.

Let's do some research to find out why a custodial mother is five times more likely to murder her own children than is a custodial father even if you take into account the greater number of single mothers.

Those figures are supplied by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

When it comes to crime and punishment, place your bets on the ladies. A man is 20 times more likely to receive the death penalty than a woman convicted of the same crime.

NOW has stated "this criminal response to women who are ill is barbaric."

Less barbaric than the apathetic response to young men who are ill, depressed and killing themselves at six times the rate of women.

If Andrea Yates gets away with murder, she won't be the first.

Sheryl Lynn Massip drove her car over her 6-week-old son. She was initially convicted of murder, but a politically sensitive judge set aside her conviction on the grounds of post-natal psychosis. Evonne Rodriguez strangled her 4-month-old son with a rosary because she thought he was possessed by demons. The Texas jury showed leniency.

Robert Latimer killed his severely disabled child and got 10 years in prison. A woman in Pointe Claire who killed her daughter was not criminally responsible because she was found to be paranoid and depressive.

She also planned to kill herself, but like Andrea, never quite got around to it.

When police first arrived on the scene in Pointe Claire, they immediately arrested and handcuffed her husband. After all, he was a man.

Thanks to the Yates case, we'll hear a lot more about postpartum depression, which is recognized as a legal defence in dozens of countries, including Canada.

It applies if the victim is under a year old. Such a killer mom usually gets no actual jail time and is merely placed on probation.

The child, however, remains dead.

- Tommy Schnurmacher is heard weekdays 9 a.m. to noon on CJAD 800 radio. His E-mail address is

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