March 19, 2009

Crazy but sane, Texas court rules

Remember Andre Thomas, the eye-plucking Texas prisoner I blogged about back in January? The delusional schizophrenic guy who killed his wife and two children, ripped out their hearts, and then walked into a police station and confessed? The fellow who plucked out one eye shortly after the crime, and the other eye just a couple of months ago?

Yesterday, in rejecting an appeal of his death sentence, a Texas appellate court ruled that Thomas "is clearly 'crazy,' but he is also 'sane' under Texas law."

At Thomas' trial, the defense argued that the killings were the result of insane delusions caused solely by Thomas' mental disease. Prosecutors countered that his psychosis was caused or aggravated by his voluntary use of alcohol, drugs and prescription drugs.

The court also rejected an appeal argument that Thomas was not competent to stand trial at the time of his 2005 trial:

"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," wrote Judge Cathy Cochran of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in a concurring opinion.

Scott Henson over at Grits for Breakfast found the ruling ludicrous:
It's just ridiculous to send somebody who's so obviously nuts to death row - what's the moral point of killing a guy who'd mutilate himself to death if you let him? What's the insanity defense for if not cases like this one? … How can the court just assume Thomas' substance abuse wasn't a symptom of his mental illness - a form of self-medication, perhaps? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Psychiatrist Lucy Puryear, writing at Women and Crime Ink, agreed:
Non-mentally ill people do not pluck their own eyes out for some secondary gain…. To those of you who would suggest that I am soft on crime, consider this novel idea. How about we make mental health treatment available in the community to those who need it. Had Mr. Thomas been adequately treated and monitored he never would have killed his family or plucked out his eye. Three people would be alive today and an enormous amount of money would be saved keeping him out of the prison system. That's not soft on crime, that's preventing crime.
As one solution, Dr. Puryear advocates specialized mental health courts, which are popping up quite regularly in courts around the United States these days:
Instead of the revolving door from prison to back on the streets where psychiatric care is lacking, then back in prison when another crime is committed, these persons can be put into a system where follow-up is mandatory and resources are available.
Tragically, Thomas had twice sought psychiatric help at local hospitals shortly before the crime, but had not stuck around voluntarily and could not be detained against his will.

Competent and sane, you betcha.

The Dallas News story is HERE.


editor said...

Who do we blame for this apparent misjustice? Taxpayers do not want to fund mental health treatment on the front end. They would rather spend millions to put to death this man.

BruceBorkosky said...

clearly, the only way you can be insane in Texas is if you are in a coma.....