News Release

Yates verdict highlights flawed approach of blame-based criminal justice system

NACDL past president calls for attention to roots of crime 

Washington, DC (March 14, 2002) -- In response to the guilty verdict in the Andrea Yates case in Houston, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Past President Nancy Hollander issued the following statement:

"The Yates case epitomizes what is wrong with the criminal justice system in this country. This woman committed a horrific act that was obviously attributable to mental illness, and yet the system and society focus on placing blame and on punishment, instead of on the underlying cause of the problem.

"What went on in Andrea Yates' mind when she committed these horrific acts is in the realm of insanity, not criminality. She should not have ended up in the criminal justice system. Until we as a society are ready to redirect the resources we spend to punish and imprison, mentally ill people like Ms. Yates will go untreated. We are continually learning about the frailty of the human mind, yet we fail to grasp how horribly debilitating mental illness can be.

"The jury's verdict speaks to the desire we all have to understand and judge rationally the chaos of an insane mind. We will never undo Andrea Yates's mental illness but we can learn from this tragedy and commit ourselves to preventing future tragedies of this magnitude. Andrea Yates will never outlive the anguish of killing her children. That will be her private torture every day of her life. Certainly society will not be served by forcing this grieving family to endure one more death."

Nancy Hollander is a criminal defense lawyer in Albuquerque. She can be reached at (505) 842-9960.

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NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.