Psycho Mom

Lisa Diaz had to save her "precious babies" from an evil world. She drowned them.

"Texas has one of the more restrictive definitions in the country," Udashen says. Periodically, the state Legislature looks at changing the law to "guilty but insane" but has taken no action.

As Udashen and Ms. Crowder talked to Angel, they became convinced that insanity was Lisa's only defense.

"On the other hand," Udashen says, "I knew what happened to Andrea Yates. That looked like a classic insanity case. And they lost. Lisa Diaz didn't have any of that. I knew it would be hard, but there was no other defense to raise."

Lisa and Angel Diaz and their children, Briana (left) and Kamryn, seemed like a happy family. But Lisa was descending into a world of irrational fears and imagined illness.
Lisa and Angel Diaz and their children, Briana (left) and Kamryn, seemed like a happy family. But Lisa was descending into a world of irrational fears and imagined illness.
Top: Briana, Kamryn and their father, Angel Diaz, in family snapshots taken about two years before the girls died. Briana is the older girl. Bottom: Lisa Diaz breaks down while describing how she drowned her daughters. Her videotaped account was played for the jury in her capital murder trial.
Top: Briana, Kamryn and their father, Angel Diaz, in family snapshots taken about two years before the girls died. Briana is the older girl. Bottom: Lisa Diaz breaks down while describing how she drowned her daughters. Her videotaped account was played for the jury in her capital murder trial.

Ms. Crowder took on the role Udashen had played years earlier, working with Lisa and other witnesses. Udashen focused on evidence and trial strategy. He had a risky decision to make: whether to use the videotapes of Lisa.

"If I decided not to use them, the jury wouldn't see them," Udashen says. "There was a lot of good stuff for me but also some bad things. In the first tape, she can answer questions. She doesn't seem insane." And on the last tape, when the questioner asks Lisa if she would have killed her children if a police officer had been present, she answers no. That might indicate to the jury that Lisa knew what she'd done was wrong.

While Udashen struggled with those questions, he brought in psychiatrist Doyle Carson and clinical psychologist Rycke Marshall to probe deeper inside Lisa's world.


Quizzing prospective jurors for the Lisa Diaz capital murder trial last August, Udashen and Ms. Crowder realized they were facing tough odds.

"People were saying, 'I would never find someone not guilty by reason of insanity if they killed their kids,'" Udashen says. "People didn't like the insanity defense. They didn't like psychiatrists and psychologists. They felt there were no standards." The judge excluded 40 of about 70 potential jurors for cause.

Lisa had remained on and off suicide watch. In January, Carson began treating her with anti-psychotic medications as well as anti-depressants. Though Lisa showed some improvement, she remained paranoid and suicidal as the psychiatrist struggled to find the right treatment approach.

Carson says psychiatry used to regard psychotic delusions such as Lisa's as psychologically based. He no longer believes that. "If someone is psychotic, I think it is a biological condition," Carson says. "I think it was a biochemical reaction operating inside of her. Things went awry somewhere in the central nervous system. I don't see people recovering from that kind of condition without medication."

Though the state wasn't seeking the death penalty, Lisa faced an automatic life sentence if convicted. Her psychotic fog had lifted enough for Lisa to contemplate her future. "She worried about ending up like Andrea Yates," Udashen says.

Udashen thought the surprising acquittal of Deanna Laney, whose Tyler trial in March 2004 was covered by Court TV, made his job harder. "I heard this from the jury panel: 'It's not right; she [Laney] got off,'" Udashen says. "There's this backlash that I had to deal with."

The defense team's confidence went up right before trial when two experts appointed by the judge filed their reports, offering the same diagnosis as the four expert defense witnesses: Lisa, at the time of the crime, was suffering from severe depression with delusional psychosis.

Tests run by psychologist Robert Lovitt indicated Lisa wasn't "malingering," or exaggerating her mental illness. She scored a "0" on a test for psychopathic traits, "indicating that she is not a callous, uncaring, manipulative and impulsive individual." Lovitt's conclusion: "It is highly likely that she was out of control and not adequately aware of the nature and implications of her alleged homicidal behavior."

Udashen spent hours studying the Yates case. "Because she had a lot of psychiatric treatment, they had a lot of different doctors who weren't consistent, and it was confusing for the jury," Udashen says. "The doctors I hired and the doctors appointed by the court were all consistent."

The defense got its biggest shock as the trial opened: Collin County prosecutor Greg Davis opted at the last minute to try Lisa only for the murder of Briana--meaning that if she was acquitted, Lisa could later be tried for Kamryn's death. It was the same strategy used in the Yates case.

Arguing that Lisa resented her husband and wanted to punish him, Davis called a paramedic and a nurse to testify about Lisa's demeanor after her arrest, attempting to show that she didn't meet the legal definition of insanity because she knew her actions were wrong. She didn't answer the door when her mother and Misty knocked. Lisa told Angel something "bad" had happened to the children. She told a jailer, "I'm so ashamed of what I did."

Subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify about going to her daughter's house that day and finding the doors locked and the blinds drawn, Cano painted Lisa's childhood in glowing terms.

After the prosecution rested, Ms. Crowder says, "some of the jurors looked like they hated us."


When psychologist Rycke Marshall met Lisa Diaz for the first time in December 2003, she saw a fragile, almost gaunt young woman. She'd lost 30 pounds in jail.
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19 comments
dyhernandez86
dyhernandez86

Ahhh and the people pleading insanity... you should die not b set free!!!! People NEVER follow through with completing thier treatments!

dyhernandez86
dyhernandez86

My heart goes out to the kids!!!! I don't understand why we continue to let these sick people back in this world. If you mess up once for murder or drugs or any horrific crime you should be put to death. Our world be a better place without physhcos. We r wasting our time and money on people that will never change. Why sentenced them to llife when they ruin lives we r better off executing them n b done with it. Think of all the kids that would b still here today if it weren't for these pedophiles/ sex offenders, bad parenting, people who blame drugs for their crime( to scared to take on full responsibility for their actions), murderers, drug cartels/ wars, prostitution, etc. WHEN WILL THIS STOP? WHEN WE ALL KILL EACH OTHER????

kavitag
kavitag

imagine being called schizo for trying to wash off the wool from over your pathetic eyes, guest.

kavitag
kavitag

i guess you must be from pune, india and are in the habit of protecting perverted doctors, huh - guest coward? you know real schizophrenics can kill, dismember and still plead insanity - hehehe - look over your shoulder the next time you make a comment like that to someone who may be really insane - hehehe

kavita gunaji
kavita gunaji

I have a feeling that this woman Lisa got caught between the mexican and chinese drug cartel. She was made to think she was crazy and she was drugged often. They can use twitter and remote technology such as a Wifi hot spot to create a boundary layer around you and have you fitted with a hearing device that may not appear to an ENT looking down your ear (see-through technology - no visible wiring) or even use your whole body or part of it as the receiver - transmitter. others will not hear what you hear and you will be made to be the crazy one. continuous drug ingestion without the person actually knowing they are on drugs can cause homicidal results. the fact that the 'bastard' doctor rubbed her in an inappropriate fashion shows that sometimes perverts are used to make a person feel uncomfortable and then if you tell someone they say you are lying and have a habit of telling lies to get attention. believe you me, i was a victim of such advances and cruel treatment. there was only one doctor who kept apologizing by seeing my level of discomfort when he touched me during my pap exam. he kept explaining what he was doing and i think he was a good doctor. there have been others who were not so nice.

kavita gunaji
kavita gunaji

This is in relation to the murders by Andrea Yates: Although I do believe people suffer from mental illness and that this was a low statistic in our population more than two decades ago, there is the likelihood that this statistic is now on the rise because of signal technology, online (internet), ease of insertion of online materials such as a minute silicon chip into the human body where it can be manipulated with ease by anyone who can dial in. This is with the advent of cell phone technology, high speed microprocessors and the sort. In other words, it is easy for any person to insert minute chips into another person and send them messages. The victim may or may not hear these messages depending on what frequency they are sent on. Is it just not possible that Andrea Yates fears and paranoia may have stemmed from such messages, in addition to brain washing (hypnotizing) drugs induced into her system and the fact that she was over-worked and underfed that could have induced her trance that day? Now, all that remains to be proved is the existence of someone with a motive - someone who was jealous of her supermom capabilities - possibly a jealous rival from her high school - with who she might have shared a boyfriend - or another possibility - someone who her husband was seeing at that time or had seen some time before the murders took place. Every person is responsible for their actions - however, the combination of drugs (brain altering) in addition to low glucose levels and the possibility of an internet online chip in her body could drive anyone to behave like a walkie-talkie and be manipulated or controlled into forced actions that the person who feels spaced out while committing these actions, may not be able to control.

guest
guest

For kavita gunaji--two words: paranoid schizophrenia. You need help; there's medication for what you have.

kavitag
kavitag

oh go make like a whitney houston and od on your cocaine

kavitag
kavitag

but then again i graduated from iit bombay in 1985. you probably do not know anything about technology and as long as there are people like you around, some of us will get away with a lot more than we have already gotten away with - hehehe - do some investigating and you will regret that you messed with me.

kavitag
kavitag

microchip technology was being developed in the decade before windows came out.

kavitag
kavitag

i have schizos in the family i was married to and they see snakes when others don't; you dont know what you are messing with - i think you should forget about a personal life now, huh, guest

kavitag
kavitag

use your real name coward - i know your mom probably fed you through her clitty instead of her titty.

kavita gunaji
kavita gunaji

Although I do believe people suffer from mental illness and that this was a low statistic in our population more than two decades ago, there is the likelihood that this statistic is now on the rise because of signal technology, online (internet), ease of insertion of online materials such as a minute silicon chip into the human body where it can be manipulated with ease by anyone who can dial in. This is with the advent of cell phone technology, high speed microprocessors and the sort. In other words, it is easy for any person to insert minute chips into another person and send them messages. The victim may or may not hear these messages depending on what frequency they are sent on. Is it just not possible that Andrea Yates fears and paranoia may have stemmed from such messages, in addition to brain washing (hypnotizing) drugs induced into her system and the fact that she was over-worked and underfed that could have induced her trance that day? Now, all that remains to be proved is the existence of someone with a motive - someone who was jealous of her supermom capabilities - possibly a jealous rival from her high school - with who she might have shared a boyfriend - or another possibility - someone who her husband was seeing at that time or had seen some time before the murders took place. Every person is responsible for their actions - however, the combination of drugs (brain altering) in addition to low glucose levels and the possibility of an internet online chip in her body could drive anyone to behave like a walkie-talkie and be manipulated or controlled into forced actions that the person who feels spaced out while committing these actions, may not be able to control.

Star
Star

I have never really been able to understand the insanityplea..arn't most cold blooded killers crazy what makesany of them any different from each other..why even havea jail if most of these evil people will get away withit by reason of insanity just another cop out like evenDahmer him self said about people that use that line..I am sure people like him would know.. and what is it with people in Texas getting away with stuff like that..I thought they were the tough state on crime maybe not..

John T.Patterson
John T.Patterson

I Too Beleive It's All Total Horseshit!!!Yes,I Understand That Some Women Can Suffer From Post Partum Depression Very Badly!!However,I Come From A Big Family And With The Exception Of A Cousin Whose Wife Left Him and His Two Sons In The Early 70's Who Wound Up Leaving My Folks To raise Them,No One In My Family Ever did Such A Thing!!And That Includes My Departed Mother;Sister;Sisters In Law;Aunts and a Stepneice!!And While I've Never Been A Father;I've Been An Uncle;Great Uncle;Stepfather and Stepgrandfather and While Maybe I Mighta Got A Little Mad at Them At Times;I've Never Thought Of Killing Any Of Them;Nor Have Their Parents!!And While Wer'e At It,We Also Need To Prosecute These"Mental Health Experts"Who Declare Them To Be"Legally Insane"At Their Hearings!!Also,Another Factor In Some Of The Women who Murdered Their Kids Is That In Some Cases,They Belonged To Some Kind Of Fundavengelical Church Led By Some Kind Of Self Styled"Preacher"Who's No More A Minister Than David KoreshWho Convinces Them Their Problems Are Caused By"Demonic Possession"!!!We Need To Prosecute Them as Well!!!My One Hope Is That When These Poor Little children Made Their Way To Heaven,God Let My Mother;Grandmothers and Aunts Take Care Of Them!!Lord Knows They didn't Get Any Care On Earth!!

Misty
Misty

It's hurtful to read stuff like this, especially when you happen to be the daughter of the woman this article is about.

Ashleyt4587
Ashleyt4587

Misty - did you know anything about the daughter she gave up for adoption in 1987?

Heather Boyles
Heather Boyles

I think it's total BULLSHIT that a jury can prove someone innocent of KILLING their kids. I don't care how " depressed" you are they is no excuse not even insanity for drowning your kids, beating them with stones, cutting their arms off or even hanging them. And people who think that depression is the reason then I guess they don't have children themselves. Almost every mother out here is depressed at one time or another. So I say put them away for life in a room with pictures of their kids painted on the walls or kill them.

 
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