Texas death row inmate Andre Thomas’ execution date was postponed to allow his legal team reasonable time to prove his incompetence
At issue is whether Thomas, who gouged out his eyes after confessing to a 2004 triple murder in Sherman, is competent to be executed.
Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
For 24/7 mental health support in English or Spanish, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s free help line at 800-662-4357. You can also reach a trained crisis counselor through the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.
A Grayson County district judge withdrew an April 5 execution date for death row inmate Andre Thomas to allow his legal team time to prepare a case proving the blind 39-year-old is too incompetent to be killed by the state.
Judge Jim Fallon, who presides over the 15th Judicial District, ordered on Tuesday the warrant of execution for Thomas to be recalled and he ordered his defense to file their argument on or before July 5.
Thomas’ attorney Maurie Levine said in a statement that the order gives them “the time necessary to make the threshold showing that his lifelong, profound mental illness, characterized by fixed auditory and visual hallucinations, distorts everything he says, thinks, and does and he is not competent for execution.”
Since his initial arrest in 2004 for the stabbing deaths of his estranged wife, Laura Boren, 20; their 4-year-old son, Andre Jr.; and her 1-year-old daughter, Leyha Hughes, Thomas has gouged out both his eyes. He immediately confessed to the murders and told investigators God had told him to carry out the killings. He was found guilty the following year in the youngest child’s death, which carries an automatic death sentence.
Last month, a clemency petition for Thomas was filed asking that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles commute his sentence to life in prison or grant a reprieve to determine whether Thomas is competent to be executed.
Attached to the clemency petition were letters of support from dozens of Texas mental health professionals and more than 100 Texas faith leaders.
“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,” Levine said Tuesday.
Thomas first began experiencing hallucinations as a child and has experienced mental illness his entire life. He is being treated with medication while in prison.
A day before the murders, Thomas sought help at a North Texas hospital for his delusions. The intake form noted that he appeared psychotic and suicidal. He was left alone and, believing that no one was helping him, he left the hospital.
Last October, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request to consider an appeal of Thomas’ conviction, in which his lawyers argued that members of the jury that convicted him of killing his wife and two children had expressed racist views.
Thomas’ appellate lawyers had argued that three members of the all-white jury — which found Thomas, who is Black, guilty — had expressed opposition to interracial marriage. His estranged wife was white. Thomas’ trial lawyer did not object to the jurors at the time.
Five days after the murders, while awaiting trial in the Grayson County jail, he gouged out his right eye. After he was sent to state prison, he gouged out his remaining eye and ate it.
House Bill 727 authored by state Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, would ensure that capital defendants with “severe mental illness” are sentenced to life without parole rather than death.
In 2021, the House passed similar legislation with strong bipartisan support. That legislation was not retroactive so it would not apply to Thomas or others who have already been convicted.
We can’t wait to welcome you Sept. 21-23 to the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, our multiday celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news — all taking place just steps away from the Texas Capitol. When tickets go on sale in May, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.
Information about the authors
Quality journalism doesn't come free
Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission: creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support.Yes, I'll donate today