Texas death row inmate who cut out his eyes seeks clemency

HOUSTON (AP) — Suffering from psychological sickness, Texas loss of life row inmate Andre Thomas began listening to voices when he was 9 years previous and first tried suicide when he was 10, his attorneys say.

Thomas’ psychosis, full of non secular delusions and hallucinations, turned worse as he grew older. His household — beset by an extended historical past of psychological sickness, dependancy and poverty — was unable to assist.

His legal professionals say in March 2004, when he was 21, Thomas’ psychological sickness erupted in a burst of horrific violence in his hometown of Sherman, Texas. He fatally stabbed his estranged spouse Laura Christine Boren, 20, their 4-year-old son Andre Lee and her 13-month-old daughter Leyha Marie Hughes, slicing out the hearts of the 2 kids. He later instructed police God had instructed him to commit the killings and that he believed all three have been demons.

Thomas was sentenced to loss of life for killing the little lady after jurors rejected his madness protection. Prosecutors argued that he knew his conduct was mistaken and exacerbated his psychological situation with drug use. He has spent the final 15 years at a unit south of Houston for the state’s most mentally unwell prisoners. The closely medicated Thomas, now 39, can be blind. Twice because the killings, he has gouged out his eyes, consuming considered one of them to make sure that the federal government couldn’t hear his ideas, his attorneys stated.

Thomas’ attorneys say he won’t ever be competent for his April 5 execution. They, together with over 100 religion leaders and dozens of psychological well being professionals on Wednesday requested Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence to life in jail or to grant a reprieve so the courts can decide his competency for execution.

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“Gov. Abbott has the ability to cease the spectacle of jail guards main a blind, mentally incompetent, delusional man to the loss of life chamber,” stated lawyer Maurie Levin.

However authorities say Thomas’ victims and their households shouldn’t be forgotten on this debate and that if Thomas is decided competent, his execution ought to go ahead. The killings of Boren and her kids shocked Sherman, a metropolis of about 45,000 residents 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Dallas.

“A jury has spoken about what justice must be on this case. We’re not going to disregard that,” stated J. Kerye Ashmore, with the Grayson County District Lawyer’s Workplace, which prosecuted the case.

A spokeswoman for Abbott didn’t reply to an e-mail despatched Friday searching for remark. Abbott has granted clemency to just one loss of life row inmate since taking workplace in 2015.

The Supreme Courtroom has prohibited the loss of life penalty for the intellectually disabled, however not for folks with severe psychological sickness. Nonetheless, it has dominated that an individual should be competent to be executed.

Thomas’ attorneys should file a courtroom movement asking that his competency be reviewed. A decide would in the end determine the problem.

His attorneys say jail information present that as just lately as December, Thomas “nonetheless hallucinate(s) continually,” together with “voices ‘from a non secular jail’ and searching for ‘angels.’”

“He is likely one of the most mentally unwell prisoners in Texas historical past,” Levin stated.

Thomas’ attorneys have stated his trial was additionally problematic as a result of jurors who stated they opposed interracial marriage have been allowed to serve. Thomas is Black and his estranged spouse was white. The U.S. Supreme Courtroom final 12 months declined to listen to an enchantment on this concern.

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Ashmore stated the usual to find out if somebody is competent to be executed isn’t “whether or not he’s mentally unwell or has hallucinations” however determining if an inmate understands why he’s being put to loss of life or that his execution is imminent.

Joe Brown, the previous Grayson County district lawyer who led the prosecution, stated this has been a troublesome case for everybody concerned.

“For many individuals I hear from, it doesn’t matter whether or not he understands that he’s being punished or not. They consider a criminal offense with these info calls for loss of life. To others … the loss of life penalty is rarely justified. Our authorized system does the perfect it could actually in that troublesome scenario,” stated Brown, who’s now in non-public observe in Sherman.

The Texas Legislature is ready to debate a invoice that will make folks with extreme psychological sickness ineligible for the loss of life penalty. Comparable payments didn’t develop into legislation in 2019 and 2021.

Kentucky and Ohio have authorised such measures lately.

“It will be very troubling to execute Mr. Thomas on the precise time that the (Texas) Home is as soon as once more contemplating exempting folks like him from being executed, stated Greg Hansch, government director of the Nationwide Alliance on Psychological Sickness-Texas. If such a invoice turned Texas legislation, it wouldn’t be retroactive.

Rev. Jaime Kowlessar, a pastor from Dallas who’s among the many greater than 100 religion leaders asking to cease the execution, stated placing Thomas to loss of life would serve no respectable objective.

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“We pray that Gov. Abbott will select the trail of therapeutic and charm by sparing Mr. Thomas’ life,” Kowlessar stated.


Comply with Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/juanlozano70.