Execution Of Texas Inmate Who Gouged Out His Eyes Delayed As State Determines Whether He's Intellectually Disabled
A Texas death row inmate who gouged out his own eyes while jailed for killing his estranged wife, his 4-year-old son and her 13-month-old daughter — and excising the children's hearts — has been granted a delayed execution so the state can determine in court whether he's competent enough to be put to death.
Andre Thomas, 39, was scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 5. But on Tuesday, State District Judge Jim Fallon issued an order withdrawing his execution date, according to the Associated Press.
RELATED: Alex Murdaugh Gets Trial Date For Wrongful Death Suit Involving 19-Year-Old Killed In Boating Accident
Maurie Levin, Thomas' attorney, wrote in a statement that the decision will give the defense "the time necessary to make the threshold showing that [Thomas'] lifelong, profound mental illness, characterized by fixed auditory and visual hallucinations, distorts everything he says, thinks, and does and he is not competent for execution."
Thomas was transferred to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Jester IV unit, which houses inmates with mental health problems, after gouging his second eye out in 2009 and eating it, purportedly to ensure the federal government wouldn't monitor his thoughts, according to reporting at the time by the The News-Star.
Photo: Texas Department of Criminal Justice/AP
Although the Supreme Court does not prohibit executions of the mentally ill, it does forbid the state-sanctioned killing of the intellectually disabled. Thomas' attorneys now have until July 5 to file a motion arguing that Thomas meets this standard, according to the Associated Press.
"We are confident that when we present the evidence of Mr. Thomas's incompetence, the court will agree that executing him would violate the Constitution," Levin wrote in his statement. "Guiding this blind psychotic man to the gurney for execution offends our sense of humanity and serves no legitimate purpose."
The episodes of self-harm rendered Thomas entirely blind. The diagnosed schizophrenic pulled out his right eye while awaiting trial, five days after fatally stabbing Laura Christine Boren, 20, their 4-year-old son Andre Lee and Boren's toddler, Leyha Marie Hughes.
Upon turning himself in to the Sherman Police Department after the 2004 murders, he claimed that God instructed him to carry out the killings. Obsessed with the Book of Revelation, he was convinced that Boren was Jezebel and that his young son was the Antichrist, according to reporting by the Huffington Post.
In the month leading up to the murder, Thomas had sought help for his delusions twice. In one instance, struggling with alcohol abuse and the recreational use of cold medication, Thomas told hospital staff that he planned to step in front of a bus if he could not speak to someone. About three weeks later, according to the Texas Tribune, he was admitted to the emergency room at Texoma Medical Center after he stabbed himself in the chest (which he would do again after killing Boren and her children).
But when hospital staff left Thomas alone to arrange for him to be committed, Thomas left the hospital and walked home, believing that no one would help him.
Thomas was found guilty in court for the younger child's murder, according to reporting by the Texas Tribune, which carries an automatic death sentence.
Leading up to the judge's decision this week, more than 100 religious leaders petitioned Gov. Greg Abbott to grant Thomas clemency and commute his sentence to life in prison.
But prosecuting attorney J. Kerye Ashmore, with the Grayson County District Attorney's office, told the Associated Press that these faith leaders were misguided and uninformed about the state's case against Thomas.
"None of these people know anything about the case," he told the outlet. "They are parroting what the defense has told them."
Should Judge Fallon decide that Thomas' lawyers have amassed sufficient evidence that he is legally incompetent, experts will be appointed to examine him and other evidence will be considered in the judge's decision whether to reschedule the execution date.
"We're willing to do that," Ashmore said of the process. "We're willing for that process to happen and let the judge make the decision. That's all we want."
Levin said that Thomas is "one of the most mentally ill prisoners in Texas history," telling the Associated Press that he is "not competent to be executed" because he lacks "a rational understanding of the state's reason for his execution."
But Ashmore told the news agency that records he has reviewed indicate that Thomas knew about his upcoming execution date, and that he is aware that his incarceration is the result of his fatal attack on his estranged wife and the two children.
Last October, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request to appeal Thomas' conviction, which was filed by his defense team on the grounds that some members the all-white jury that convicted him expressed racist views during their selection process, according to the Tribune. Three members of that jury, the lawyers said, had expressed opposition to interracial marriage. Thomas is Black and his slain wife was white. At the time, however, Thomas' defense did not object to the chosen jurors.