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The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request Tuesday to take up the case of Texas death row inmate Andre Thomas, whose lawyers argued that members of the jury that convicted him of killing his wife and two children had expressed racist views.
A 6-3 majority of the court turned down the request. Seeking the court’s intervention, Thomas’ lawyers had argued that three members of the all-white jury — which found Thomas, who is Black, guilty of killing his wife, who was white, their son and her daughter — had expressed opposition to interracial marriage. Thomas’ initial lawyer did not object to their seating.
The court did not elaborate on why it had declined to review the case. Three justices — Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson — wrote in a dissenting opinion that Thomas’ conviction and death sentence “clearly violate the constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel.”
Thomas’ case was examined in a series published by The Texas Tribune in 2013 that chronicled his mental illness and raised questions about how the criminal justice system treats individuals with mental illness.
He stabbed and mutilated his estranged wife, Laura Boren, 20; their 4-year-old son, Andre Jr.; and her 1-year-old daughter, Leyha Hughes, in 2004 in Sherman. He was found guilty about a year later.
“This case involves a heinous crime apparently committed by someone who suffered severe psychological trauma,” Sotomayor said in the dissent. “Whether Thomas’ psychological disturbances explain or in any way excuse his commission of murder, however, is beside the point. No jury deciding whether to recommend a death sentence should be tainted by potential racial biases that could infect its deliberations or decision, particularly where the case involved an interracial crime.”
Thomas, who is blind and had gouged his eyes, was not a danger to anyone, his lawyer Maurie Levin said Tuesday.
“To pursue his execution would be nothing but an ugly spectacle and would not make Texans safer,” Levin said in a statement.
Thomas had schizophrenia and active psychosis, first hearing voices and attempting to kill himself at 10 years old, Levin said. He tried twice again in the three weeks before the murders, and he also sought help at hospitals that noted he was “experiencing delusions, religious hallucinations, and hearing voices,” Levin said.
After the killings, he stabbed himself five times in the chest in what Levin described as an attempt “to take his own life.”
“No one who hears the story of Mr. Thomas’ life believes he is mentally competent,” Levin said. “Guiding a blind, delusional man onto Texas’ gurney would be an indelible image that would cast a permanent shadow over Texas’ reputation. Texas can keep the public safe by keeping Mr. Thomas in prison for life.”