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Crime

Texas man who ate his own eye could still face execution despite mental illness, US Supreme Court rules

Andrew Thomas, 35, told police that God told him to murder his wife, son and stepdaughter. The victims were stabbed and had their hearts ripped out

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 4:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 6:07am

A US federal appeal court has said it won’t consider whether a Texas inmate who removed his only eye and ate it in an outburst several years ago is too mentally ill to be executed, but will consider other questions in an appeal of his conviction for killing his estranged wife’s 13-month-old daughter.

Lawyers for Andrew Thomas, 35, argued that executing him while he is severely mentally ill was unconstitutional, but that issue is “foreclosed”, a 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel said in a brief ruling on Thursday

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The US Supreme Court has ruled mentally disabled people are ineligible for execution. That prohibition does not include the mentally ill. But the three-judge appeal court panel, which heard arguments Tuesday, said it would allow his lawyers to move forward with appeals that Thomas’ trial lawyers were deficient and his jury was racially biased.

Thomas’ appeals lawyers contend the trial lawyers didn’t investigate his competency to stand trial, failed to adequately counter prosecutors’ arguments that Thomas’ drug and alcohol abuse was responsible for his behaviour, and failed to uncover and present evidence of his mental illness that could have persuaded jurors to decide a life sentence was more appropriate.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to present the troubling issues in Mr. Thomas’ case for fuller adjudication,” Maurie Levin, one of Thomas’ lawyers, said.

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“Mr Thomas, who is currently housed in a psychiatric unit, is an extremely mentally ill man who was sentenced to death following a highly problematic trial and sentencing.”

Thomas confessed to killing his estranged wife, Laura Christine Boren, 20; their son, Andre Lee, 4; and Boren’s toddler daughter, Leyha Marie Hughes on March 27, 2004.

Thomas is black. Boren was white. Appeals lawyers contend ineffective questioning by trial lawyers meant racially biased jurors were seated.

Thomas has a history of mental problems. He walked into the Sherman Police Department, about 60 miles (95 kilometres) north of Dallas, and told a dispatcher he had killed the three, saying God had told him to commit the killings. The victims were stabbed and had their hearts ripped out.

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Five days later in jail he plucked out one of his eyes. While on death row in 2009, he removed his remaining eye and told prison officials he ate it.

Thomas does not have an execution date.