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Lawyers grill psychiatrist who treated Yates

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- The psychiatrist who treated Andrea Yates just two days before the mother drowned her five children faced tough questioning from her attorneys Monday.

Dr. Mohammed Saeed is considered a medical obstacle to the Yates' insanity defense in her murder trial, because in his last meeting with her he noted in his chart that he saw no evidence of psychosis.

Yates' attorneys questioned his judgment, noting he once discharged her from a hospital while she was still under a suicide watch.

In testimony that lasted all afternoon, defense attorneys grilled Saeed about his supervision of her treatment during two hospitalizations at Devereux Treatment Center in League City, south of Houston, and as an outpatient.

Saeed acknowledged that during her first hospitalization -- from March 31 until mid-April -- he refused a request from Yates' husband Russell to put her on Haldol, an anti-psychotic medication Russell Yates credited with helping her during treatment in 1999 for postpartum depression.

Saeed did agree to prescribe the drug when Andrea Yates was rehospitalized at Devereux on May 4 -- a day after she told her mother-in-law she had filled the bathtub because "I might need it."

Attorneys grilled the psychiatrist who last saw Andrea Yates before she killed her five children. CNN's David Mattingly reports (March 5)

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Yates was released 10 days later, while she was still under a suicide watch, according to medical records presented in court. After her discharge, Saeed continued to care for Yates as an outpatient.

The psychiatrist acknowledged he discontinued Yates' prescription of Haldol 16 days before she killed the children.

"I still stand by saying that there was no evidence of psychosis, from my observation," Saeed told jurors Monday.

But Saeed could not answer when pressed about why he prescribed the anti-psychotic medication if he was not convinced Andrea was psychotic.

Citing medical records as evidence that Saeed failed to treat her properly, defense attorneys pointed to the intermittent drug treatment, to her release while under a suicide watch, and to the fact that her medical records from 1999, when she twice attempted suicide, were not reviewed until her second hospital stay in 2001.

Saeed left the courtroom without comment.

Defense expects to rest Wednesday

Earlier in the day, Dr. Ellen Allbritton, a psychiatrist at Devereux who admitted Yates March 31, contradicted Saeed's testimony.

"She looked very ill, withdrawn. It looked like she hadn't taken care of herself in quite some time," Allbritton told the court. "I wouldn't have trusted her to walk across the street."

Yates has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Noah, 7, John, 5, and Mary, 6 months. One of the counts covers the two eldest children. She is not on trial for the drownings of Luke, 3, and Paul, 2.

Defense attorneys expect to wrap up their case by Wednesday. Then the prosecution will present rebuttal witnesses to refute testimony from defense experts.

Prosecutors contend Yates knew right from wrong when she held her five young children under water in the bathtub and that the killings were premeditated.

Defense attorneys concede Yates knew drowning her five children was illegal and that she would be punished for the crime. That will make their arguments of insanity more difficult, because in Texas insanity defenses depend on knowing right from wrong.

Saving children from 'eternity in hell'

On Friday, a psychiatrist who interviewed Yates twice while she was in jail said she "did not know the difference between right and wrong."

Dr. Phillip Resnick testified Yates knew that killing her children was illegal, but she believed she was helping them by sending them to heaven and saving them from an eternity in hell.

He said she faced "a cruel dilemma which turned upside down her sense of right and wrong."

Resnick said Yates was suffering from schizophrenia, depression and other mood disorders and believed she was possessed by Satan. He said she believed she would be executed for her crime, thereby ridding the Earth of Satan.

Russell Yates told jurors last week that he never grasped the extent of Andrea Yates' illness, that he was told her postpartum depression and other symptoms were treatable and that at no time did her behavior suggest she was a danger to the children.




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