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No charges to be filed in Andrea Yates gag order probe

By The Associated Press

04.05.02

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HOUSTON — No charges will be filed against anyone who might have violated a gag order imposed in the Andrea Yates case because the order was too broad and unconstitutional, the special prosecutor assigned to investigate said yesterday.

George "Mac" Secrest was appointed by State District Judge Belinda Hill after Russell Yates, husband of the woman convicted last month of drowning her children, and Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal spoke about the murders on the CBS television program "60 Minutes" in early December.

"I just do not think under the circumstances that justice would be served by going after folks that probably should have kept their mouths shut but nonetheless would have a valid First Amendment defense, at least on appeal," Secrest said.

Hill, however, had "all the right reasons" for imposing the gag order, he said.

The judge imposed the order shortly after the June 20 drownings of the five Yates children at their Houston home.

"Her reasons clearly supported the need for the order," Secrest said. "The type of comments that normally come out in a case like this were kept to a minimum The order was not drawn narrowly enough to withstand appellate scrutiny."

Hill declined to comment yesterday, saying she normally does not comment on any other case in her court in which a prosecutor decides not to seek charges.

Rosenthal said if he had known the program was going to air when it did, he wouldn't have appeared on it.

"If anyone, myself included, contributed to the tainting of the jury pool about anything, then I shouldn't have done it," he said.

Edward Mallett, Russell Yates' attorney, did not immediately return a telephone call from the Associated Press.

Andrea Yates, 37, was convicted on March 12 of two capital murder charges in the drowning deaths of three of her five children. Days later, the same eight-woman, four-man jury panel, took less than 40 minutes to recommend a life sentence. Jurors who rejected her insanity defense could have sentenced Yates to death.

Previous

Husband of suspected child killer speaks to news media despite gag order
Russell Yates, prosecutor could face up to six months in jail and up to $500 in fines for contempt of court by granting interviews.  12.10.01

Related

Yates story could test state's ban on profiting from crime
Analysis Texas' 'Son of Sam' law would likely face constitutional challenge if anyone were to try to buy rights to Houston mother's story.  06.06.02

Convicted child killer's husband sues to keep crime-scene video under wraps
Russell Yates argues releasing tape showing images of his dead children would violate his right to privacy.  06.30.02

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