The April execution of one of Texas’s “most mentally ill prisoners” was delayed Tuesday by a judge due to concerns surrounding the man’s mental state.
Andre Thomas, 39, was set to be executed on April 5 for the March 2004 stabbing deaths of his estranged wife Laura Christina Boren, 20, their 4-year-old son Andre Lee and Boren’s 13-month-old daughter Leyha Marie Hughes in the relatively small town of Sherman. The Associated Press reported Thomas cut the two children’s hearts out.
Thomas, who gouged each of his eyes out on two separate occasions, later told police God instructed him to commit the killings and that he thought all three of his victims were demons.
State District Judge Jim Fallon issued the order Tuesday withdrawing the execution date after Thomas’s lawyers requested additional time to prepare for a court hearing to review his competency, according to The AP.
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Per the Supreme Court, a person must be competent in order to be executed, and while the death penalty is prohibited for the intellectually disabled, those with serious mental illness have not been automatically granted the same exemption.
“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,” Maurie Levin, Thomas’s attorney, wrote in a statement to The AP. “Guiding this blind psychotic man to the gurney for execution offends our sense of humanity and serves no legitimate purpose.”
Thomas’s attorneys have also said he ate his second eye after gouging it out to ensure that the government could not hear his thoughts.
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Over 100 people, including faith leaders, have reportedly asked Gov. Greg Abbott to stop the execution in the past, but the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, said those calling for clemency have not read reports or evaluations about Thomas’s mental state.
“None of these people know anything about the case. They are parroting what the defense has told them,” said Grayson County District Attorney’s Office J. Kerye Ashmore.
Levin has referred to her client as “one of the most mentally ill prisoners in Texas history,” adding that “he is not competent to be executed” and lacks a rational understanding of why he was sentenced to death.
Ashmore said he’s reviewed records that appear to indicate Thomas is aware of why he is in jail and that he knew about his April execution date.
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Fallon’s order gives Thomas’s attorneys until July 5 to file a motion asking that his competency be reviewed before the execution can proceed, The AP reported. If Fallon decides Thomas’s lawyers have presented sufficient evidence, experts will be appointed to examine Thomas and other evidence would be reviewed before a final decision is made.
“We’re willing for that process to happen and let the judge make the decision. That’s all we want,” Ashmore said.
If clemency is granted, Thomas is subject to the law that existed at the time of his crime – life in prison without parole was not an option in Texas in 2004.
Ashmore told KXII in February if Thomas’s sentence is commuted, he will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.