In the first in a six-part series on mental health and criminal justice, the Texas Tribune reviews the case of Andre Thomas, which the newspaper says “offers a lens through which to examine the effects of a mental health system in Texas that is too fractured and too underfunded to care for the mentally ill. A system unable to identify and treat the dangerously ill before their affliction affects others. A system that often punishes the deluded instead of helping them to recover and protecting society from them.”
Thomas, now 29, is a death row inmate who began exhibiting signs of mental illness as a boy and committed a brutal triple murder in 2004. Thomas awaits a federal court’s decision on whether he is sane enough to be executed. His lawyers argue that his long untreated mental illness not only drove him to commit an unthinkable crime but also provoked him to gouge out both of his eyes while behind bars, and has rendered him incompetent for execution. Prosecutors contend that drugs and alcohol and Thomas' desire for attention fueled his actions. They say that a jury justly sentenced him to death for them.