HOUSTON – Next month’s scheduled execution of a Texas death row inmate whose lawyers say both of his eyes were gouged out – each a separate incident – was delayed by a judge Tuesday, due to severe mental illness.
Andre Thomas, to be executed on April 5, was sentenced to death for the fatal stabbings in March 2004 of his 20-year-old wife Laura Christine Boren, their 4-year-old son Andre Lee, and their 13-month-old daughter Leah Marie Hughes , By cutting the hearts of two children.
He later told the police that God had instructed him to commit the murders and that he believed all three were demons. The murders of Boren and her children shocked Sherman, a city of about 45,000 residents 65 miles north of Dallas.
State District Judge Jim Fallon on Tuesday issued an order to push back the date of execution. Fallon’s decision came after Thomas’ attorneys requested additional time to prepare for a court hearing to review his competency.
The Supreme Court has banned the death penalty for the intellectually disabled, but not for those with severe mental illness. However, it ruled that a person must be competent to execute.
“We are confident that when we present evidence of Mr. Thomas’s incapacitation, the court will agree that executing him would violate the Constitution,” Thomas’ attorney, Maurie Levine, wrote in a statement. “Directing this blind mental person to the gallows hurts our sense of humanity and serves no legitimate purpose.”
His lawyers have said that after the other eye was removed, he ate it to ensure that the government could not hear his views.
More than 100 faith leaders and others previously called on Gov. Greg Abbott to halt the 39-year-old’s execution.
Grayson County District Attorney’s Office J.J. Kerry Ashmore said faith leaders and others calling for clemency for Thomas have not been fully informed about the case and have not read any reports or evaluations about his mental state.
“None of these people know anything about the case. They are parroting what the defense has told them,” Ashmore said.
Fallon’s order gives Thomas’ attorneys until July 5 to file their motion, which states that the inmate’s eligibility may be reviewed prior to his execution. If Fallon decides that Thomas’s attorneys have presented enough evidence to proceed, experts will be assigned to examine her, and other evidence will be reviewed by the judge before making a decision.
“We are willing to do that. We are willing to let that process happen and let the judge decide. That’s what we want,” Ashmore said.
Levin called Thomas “one of the most mentally ill prisoners in the history of Texas”, adding that “he is not competent to execute, lacking a rational understanding of the state’s reason for his execution.”
Ashmore said that he has reviewed records that appear to show that Thomas was aware of the date of his execution and that he is in prison because he killed his wife and his children.