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Execution postponed for Texas death row inmate who gouged out his eyes


HOUSTON — The scheduled execution next month of a Texas death row inmate, whose attorneys say he gouged out both eyes — each a separate incident — due to serious mental illness, was delayed by a judge on Tuesday.

Andre Thomas was due to be executed on April 5, on death row for the March 2004 fatal stabbing of his ex-wife Laura Christine Boren, 20, their 4-year-old son Andre Lee and 13-month-old daughter Leyha Marie Hughes, cutting out the heart of the two children.

He later told police that God commanded him to carry out the murders and that he believed all three were demons. The murders of Boren and his children shocked Sherman, a town of about 45,000 people 65 miles north of Dallas.

State District Judge Jim Fallon issued an order Tuesday vacating the execution date. Fallon’s decision came after Thomas’ lawyers requested additional time to prepare for a court hearing to examine his competence.

The Supreme Court has banned the death penalty for the mentally handicapped, but not for those with severe mental illness. However, he ruled that a person must be fit for execution.

“We are confident that when we present evidence of Mr. Thomas’ incompetence, the court will agree that his execution would violate the Constitution,” Maurie Levin, Thomas’ attorney, wrote in a statement. “Guiding this blind psychotic man to the stretcher for execution offends our sense of humanity and serves no legitimate purpose.”

His lawyers said that after gouging out the second eye, he ate it to make sure the government couldn’t hear his thoughts.

More than 100 religious and other leaders had previously called on Governor Greg Abbott to stop the 39-year-old’s execution.

J. Kerye Ashmore of the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, said religious leaders and others calling for clemency for Thomas are not fully briefed on the case and do not have read any report or assessment of his mental state.

“None of these people know anything about the case. They are repeating what the defense told them,” Ashmore said.

Fallon’s order gives Thomas’ lawyers until July 5 to file their motion asking that the inmate’s competence be reviewed before his execution can proceed. If Fallon decides that Thomas’ lawyers have presented enough evidence to move forward, experts will be appointed to question him and other evidence will be considered by the judge before he makes a decision.

“We are ready to do it. We are willing for this process to happen and let the judge make the decision. That’s all we want,” Ashmore said.

Levin called Thomas “one of the most mentally ill prisoners in Texas history,” adding that “he is not competent to be executed, lacking a rational understanding of the reason for his execution by the state”.

Ashmore said he reviewed records that would appear to indicate Thomas knew of his execution date and that he knew he was in jail because he killed his ex-wife and children.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.