Andre Thomas is insane. That statement requires no validation, no clarification and leaves no room for debate. Just over 11 years ago, Thomas brutally murdered his estranged 20-year-old wife and her 2 children – 4 years old and 13 months old, respectively. He did so, by attempting to dig their hearts out of their chests. He then left the scene, and tried the same on himself. Since it is impossible to cut out your own heart, he failed – surviving to face charges. He confessed, and at age 21 was sentenced to death.
While awaiting trial, Thomas gouged out one of his own eyeballs. In 2008, he gouged out the other, this time eating it.
During the month that preceded the crime, Mr. Thomas had sought mental health treatment, on several occasions. Twice, during this period, his obvious psychoses made doctors so nervous that they requested emergency detention warrants for him. He rang all the bells, ranting on about suicide, the Bible and his mission from God. He told the doctors that Ms. Boren was the Biblical Jezebel, that his son was the Antichrist and that his infant daughter was part of a satanic conspiracy. He ranted and raved. He spoke of hearing voices, and told how he had been called upon to free their hearts of demonic possession.
Despite all this, he was never detained, and never treated.
In Texas, as in most states, hospitals cannot hold people who check in for mental health reasons, but refuse to stay. It is necessary to obtain a warrant, in which case the burden of proof falls on the psych department, to show that the patient is a potential danger to himself or others. However, Texas does have a non-profit organization that is seeking to change that – the Texas Appleseed Project. They are urging the state to change the existing law. One such change would involve granting hospitals and mental health facilities the right to detain patients in the advent of a demonstrable mental health crisis.
This is just one more case where we – society – dropped the ball, and let a disturbed psychotic slip through the cracks. In short, we could have saved that family. Records show that Thomas had complained of hearing voices – voices that commanded him to do evil things – since he was a small child. He told school friends and teachers that he heard demons in his head. By his teens, Thomas had attempted suicide several times. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict. By his 18th birthday, he already had a long history of arrests.
We failed him, and now we want to kill him. He did a horrible thing and he deserves to be punished. Perhaps, but we need to be very careful here. Almost 2 decades before he did that horrible thing, he came to us, asking for help. We chose not to give it to him. It’s too expensive. It’s a violation of his Constitutional rights. He didn’t follow the prescribed plan. Would you lock up everybody who mutters about suicide – or even homicide?
A friend of mine, several years ago, was going through a bad patch. His job was in jeopardy. His family was falling apart around him. He was losing his home, and he was drowning in debt. He chose to seek the advice of a mental health professional. In the ensuing session, he mentioned to the doctor, “Sometimes I just feel like I could kill.” Up went the red flags, and my friend ended up hospitalized. In Massachusetts, they can hold you for 3 days for observation. My friend wasn’t mentally ill. He was suffering. It’s something people do. Some may see those 3 days as an overreaction on the part of the doctor, and in this particular case, I would agree.
What about Dylan Klebold? Maybe 3 days of forced observation – followed up with treatment upon the realization that this young man was indeed a threat to himself and others – could have saved the lives of the Columbine students.
The mentally ill can be cured. But, it is expensive, and sadly – at times – it involves stepping on one or more of their Constitutional rights. We just need to maintain caution. There is a difference between watching out for those in need, and becoming a police state. I’m not advocating some sort of Aktion T-4, here. Individual liberty is – and must always be – paramount in American law, but we cannot continue to ignore the mentally ill, hoping they’ll just go away – and we can’t keep letting the penal system and the death penalty do the work we’re either too lazy or too inept to do.
In writing the above, I consulted the following:
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.
- After that, let’s kill the mentally ill kid (drx.typepad.com)
- Troubled inmate struggles to maintain sanity in Texas prison (kens5.com)
- Religious? Crazy? Both? (therevealer.org)
- A schizophrenic who gouged out his eyes is on Texas death row (salon.com)
- Mentally Ill Death Row Prisoner Removed Both His Eyes – Will TX Execute Him Anyway? (my.firedoglake.com)
- “How Crazy is too Crazy to be Executed?” (I prefer to say: Mentally ill … not “crazy”) (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
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