By Ivan Villegas
AUSTIN, TX – Attorneys for Andre Thomas are requesting to have his sentence of death commuted to life in prison or a reprieve to allow the courts to determine if he is competent for his execution, which is scheduled for this April 5.
The defense team noted in the application for his commutation that Thomas is severely mentally ill, suffering delusions and hallucinations since the age of 10… “from that young age to the time of the crime, he repeatedly tried to kill himself.”
Before carrying out the crime that led to his conviction, the lawyers said his psychosis had worsened and he went to the emergency room asking for help (and after being left alone and feeling like no one was helping him, he left the clinic, and although an Emergency Detention Order was issued it was never carried out).
According to a press release by Squire Patton Boggs, the international legal practice, said the man is “[s]uffering from severe schizophrenia and active psychosis, Mr. Thomas followed the voices in his head and murdered his estranged wife…their son…and her daughter…before attempting to take his own life by stabbing himself in the chest.”
Ultimately, Thomas turned himself in to the police, and, said the defense, while in custody, Thomas gouged out both of his eyes, “seeking to ensure that the government could not hear his thoughts.”
After gouging out his first eye, the court found him incompetent to stand trial, but “only a mere 47 days” later he was found competent. His attorneys never re-raised the question of his competence, despite the evidence of his lifelong mental illness,” claim his lawyers now.
“For the past 15 years, Mr. Thomas has resided at the Wayne Scott Unit, where the most mentally ill Texas prisoners are housed. He is given multiple powerful anti-psychotic drugs, which manage only to mitigate his auditory and visual hallucinations,” stated Squire Patton Boggs.
More than 100 Texas faith leaders and mental health organizations have filed letters to the Governor of Texas and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, supporting Thomas’ clemency.
The letter from the Texas faith leaders, from 12 different faith traditions, stated: “In Andre Thomas’s case, we are firmly convinced that granting him clemency is the path of morality, faith, and justice. We urge you to do so and ensure that he is not executed.”
In a letter composed by 77 Texas mental health professionals and advocates they argued that, given the new understanding of the importance of early intervention in mental health illnesses, “[w]e believe that the execution of Mr. Thomas…would be a senseless spectacle.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, and other leading mental health organizations wrote in a separate letter, “[w]e believe that proceeding with Mr. Thomas’ execution would violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on executing people who are not competent for execution.”
The Texas House of Representatives is deliberating on the passage of House Bill 727, which would ensure that capital defendants with severe mental illnesses are sentenced to life without parole, not death.
However, this piece of legislation is not retroactive and would not apply to Andre Thomas, leading Squire Patton Boggs to conclude “it would be deeply troubling to execute Mr. Thomas at the exact time the [Texas] House is again considering exempting people like him from execution.”