Attorneys for a Texas inmate facing execution for the stabbing deaths of his estranged wife, their young son, and the woman’s infant daughter told a federal judge that he’s too mentally ill to face capital punishment.
Andre Thomas, 35, was sentenced to death for the March 2004 slayings of Laura Boren, 4-year-old Andre Jr., and Boren’s 13-month-old daughter, Leyha. The Dallas Morning News reported that Thomas stabbed the trio to death before cutting out their hearts, taking the organs home in his pocket, and throwing them in the trash.
A recent article by Texas Monthly detailed Thomas’ history of mental illness that went far back as adolescence. By age 9, Thomas reportedly heard voices and had attempted suicide soon after. Months before the murder, he had put tape over his mouth because he believed that God had told him not to talk, according to the magazine.
Alarmingly, a month before the grisly slayings, Thomas was admitted into a mental health facility and a hospital following multiple suicide attempts but was released before he could receive effective treatment.
Five days after he turned himself in for the three murders, Thomas claimed he was reading the Bible in jail when he came along Matthew 5:29, a passage that reads, “If your right eye causes you to stumble…gouge it out.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
Three psychologists later determined Thomas was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and found him not competent to stand trial.
After six weeks of treatment, a psychologist determined that Thomas–who struggled with substance abuse issues throughout his life—had exaggerated his symptoms and re-diagnosed him with “substance-induced psychosis.” The new diagnosis made Thomas competent to stand trial, according to Texas Monthly.
The article goes on to explain how racial biases—Thomas is black and Boren was white—might’ve influenced the jury’s decision to sentence him to death as three jurors disagreed with interracial marriage. Thomas’ attorneys also failed to keep those jurors out the pool and didn’t compile information about their client’s lengthy mental health history, the magazine wrote.
Thomas’ mental health issues continued even after he was condemned to death. In 2009, the death row inmate gouged out his left eye and told prison officials that he ate it. The Associated Press reported that he remains at a prison psychiatric unit as a result.
For years, attorneys have pushed to get Thomas off death row, citing his mental competence. A federal judge in 2016 rejected their appeal, which led attorneys to appeal. On Tuesday, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments that will determine whether the appeal will move forward, according to the Morning News.
In addition to sparing Thomas from execution, his attorneys are pushing for the abolishment of the death penalty for all people with mental illnesses. They said arguments for capital punishment, including deterrence and retribution, aren’t effective nor apply to the mentally ill.
“There is a growing consensus against the execution of the severely mentally ill. The leading legal and mental-health professional organizations—including the American Bar Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association—oppose the death penalty for the severely mentally ill,” a brief obtained by Texas Monthly read.
Conversely, the state argued that Thomas is a manipulative individual who knew right from wrong when he murdered his wife and her two young children. They also claimed his psychosis was brought about by drug and alcohol abuse.
Based on the court’s decision, the Herald Democrat reported that Attorney Catherine M.A. Carroll could be preparing to convince a court that Thomas is too mentally ill to die or moving one step closer to learning her client’s execution date.
[Featured image: Andre Thomas/Texas Department of Criminal Justice]