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March 19, 2009

"Texas judge: Eye-plucking inmate 'crazy' but sane"

The title of this post is the headline of this AP report on an eye-popping case previously discussed here (sorry, couldn't resist the easy joke).  Here are the particulars:

A condemned Texas inmate who removed his only eye and ate it in a bizarre outburst several months ago on death row is "crazy," yet sane under state law, a judge wrote in an appellate court ruling Wednesday that rejected his appeals.

Andre Thomas raised 44 claims in his petition to the state's highest criminal court, challenging his conviction and death sentence for the murder of his estranged wife's 13-month-old daughter five years ago in Grayson County in North Texas....

The nine-member Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously upheld Thomas' conviction and punishment.  Thomas "is clearly 'crazy,' but he is also 'sane' under Texas law," Judge Cathy Cochran wrote in a 14-page statement accompanying the court's brief order....

Cochran wrote that although "reasonable people might well differ on the questions of whether (Thomas) was sane at the time he committed these murders or competent at the time he was tried, those issues were appropriately addressed by the defense, the prosecution, trial judge, and the jury during the trial."

While in the Grayson County Jail five days after his arrest, Thomas plucked out his right eye. A judge subsequently ruled he was competent to stand trial.  Last December, a death row officer at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found Thomas in his cell with blood on his face and had him taken to the unit infirmary. Thomas told officials he had pulled out his remaining eye and ate it.  He was taken to a hospital for treatment, then was transferred to a prison psychiatric unit.

There was no reference to the second eye removal in the court opinion.

Thomas was convicted of killing 13-month-old Leyha Marie Hughes. Also slain March 27, 2004, were his wife, Laura Christine Boren, 20, and their son, 4-year-old Andre Lee.  "This is an extraordinarily tragic case," Cochran wrote, saying the deaths could have been avoided because Thomas twice went to hospitals for help but left voluntarily and couldn't be held without legal authority.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals per curiam opinion in this case is available here; Judge Cochran's concurring opinion is available here.

March 19, 2009 at 10:36 AM | Permalink


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This case makes Texas look crazy (I mean even more crazy).

Posted by: dn | Mar 19, 2009 10:59:22 AM

I understand that the Texan mindset is more criminal than most (requiring a large number of their population to be incarcerated or killed by the state). However, it is sad that the court didn't take the issue that seriously.

However, this probably is just because their law schools were not that good and the judges and clerks were not detail-oriented.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 19, 2009 1:20:19 PM

About as detail-oriented as your exposition of selective incorporation, S.cotus. In other words, pot, meet kettle.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 19, 2009 1:29:00 PM

S.cotus's feeble attempt at trolling notwithstanding, anyone with a law-school education knows that mental illness is not the same thing as legal insanity.

Posted by: Ed | Mar 19, 2009 2:52:48 PM

The ninth paragraph of Part I, which starts “five days after the killings” mentions the part about him gouging out his right eye. That sentence ends with footnote number 11, which mentions that the motion to remand references that “while on death row, applicant also gouged out his left eye and ate it.”

So there was sort of reference to the “second eye removal” in the court opinion. I know that’s from your cut and paste of the Ap report, just throwing that out there as an FYI.

Grits said it best: if this defendant is not insane, then the insanity defense is…

Posted by: Jamie | Mar 19, 2009 4:35:28 PM

If the insane are spared their well earned death penalty, then people who can pitch a baseball at 95 mph should not be paid $10 million a year. There is no difference in the biological basis or the environmental basis of either of those achievements. This person has a great talent for violence to others and to himself. He is as intensely talented in his area of interest as the great pitcher is.

He deserves the death penalty even more than other death row inmates. Someone who can pluck out an eye and eat it is a bigger threat than someone who cannot, and needs to be executed even more.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 19, 2009 7:46:44 PM

Federalist, Not sure what "selective incorporation" has to do with this or anything, so maybe you need to re-read my post.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 20, 2009 1:20:00 AM

Supremacy Claus, he plucked one eye out and then another. Since most people have two eyes, and that equals 2, he is likely blind. Blind people are not usually as dangerous as non-blind people (who can read blogs and post dangerous stuff). Grits is right. Anyone else get the impression the retributionists would prefer to pluck out the eyes of the convicted before executing them?

Posted by: George | Mar 20, 2009 1:53:23 AM

Insanity was the argument, not blindness. Each person has a rare talent with a consequence. Both talents have the same mix of voluntary and involuntary causes.

Would you care to be his guard now, leading him to all activities, arm in arm? You would have a lot of courage, or you would be crazy to. Either way, should you not get your salary for doing your job as someone with guarding ability?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 20, 2009 5:09:35 AM

While 43 points were raise, the issue here seems to be competency, not sanity.

Whatever. It isn't as if most people care.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 22, 2009 6:04:36 PM

What do theories that deal with relativity, space and time curvature, the speed of light, big bangs, “cats in boxes” and particles have to do with how you and I live our live

Posted by: herbaltooth paste | Apr 20, 2010 11:32:22 AM

Well, in order to create a permanent crisis narrative that supports their self-serving lobbying for privatisation...

Posted by: herbaltooth paste | Apr 20, 2010 11:36:34 AM

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