As American citizens, we are blessed with our justice system. We are considered innocent until proven guilty. Additionally, according to the Eighth Amendment, it is unjust to convict the mentally ill, considering it cruel and unusual punishment.
How insane does one person have to be, in order for the judge to accept a plea of insanity? Proving insanity is a difficult feat, that one convicted felon, Andre Thomas, tried desperately to accomplish.
Andre grew up in Sherman, Texas. He was one of six children. As a child, his future looked promising. Thomas was accepted into the gifted and talented program at a local school. According to his Bible school teacher, he would eagerly raise his hand, memorizing multiple Bible verses.
Andre always kept good grades, despite a difficult life at home. He began showing signs of mental illness at a young age. Thomas slit his wrists at the age of 10, attempting to end his own life. Three years later, he attempted to cut his arm off entirely with a knife. His mother did nothing to try and get him help. Soon, he started involving himself in a life of crime.
His mother and father played a minimal role in his life. On multiple occasions, his mother told Thomas that she wished she aborted him. Eventually, she moved away, abandoning him in a juvenile detention center.
Andre Thomas made it to high school despite the obstacles he was forced to overcome. His classmates said that he was an extremely talented artist. He would draw sketches of cars that he said he would design one day.
In his early 20’s, Thomas married a woman named Laura Kallas. He and Laura had a child together, before the marriage turned sour. It is unclear exactly what caused the demise of the marriage, but it can be assumed that Thomas’ mental health had a great deal to do with the downfall. At one point, his sister in law, Rachel Kallas, said, “We definitely saw him doing great things, but he definitely didn’t go down that road.”
In 2004, when Thomas was 29 years old, he committed a heinous act of violence. Thomas broke into the home of his estranged wife. She was home with their four-year-old son, and her 13-month-old daughter, who she had with the man she was now seeing.
Once he was inside, he stabbed all three people to death. He used multiple knives for the crime, so that he would not cross contaminate each person’s blood. He said that he felt that if they were “contaminated” it would allow the demons to live inside of them.
As the bodies lay beside Thomas, he attempted to stab himself to death. He stabbed himself in the chest then laid down the floor. However, soon he realized that he was not going to die. Thomas then proceeded to cut out the hearts of the two children, and the lung of his ex-wife. He put the organs in his pocket and walked home.
When Thomas arrived home, he placed the murder weapons in the sink and changed out of his bloody clothes. He then phoned his ex-wife’s parents and left a disturbing voicemail. He said, “Um, Sherry, this is Andre. I need y’alls help, something bad is happening to me and it keeps happening and I don’t know what’s going on. I need some help, I think I’m in hell. I need help. Somebody needs to come and help me. I need help bad. I’m desperate. I’m afraid to go to sleep. So, when you get this message, come by the house, please. Hello?”
After the phone call, Thomas told his current girlfriend along with his cousin, about the crime he had committed. When they asked why, he said that he believed that his son was the antichrist, and that his ex-wife’s daughter, was pure evil. After this, Thomas turned himself into the police.
Thomas’ girlfriend told authorities that Thomas believed he was the devil. He felt that God would forgive him if he would stay quiet and not speak for 24 hours. Frequently, she said, he would duct tape his mouth shut for an entire day, in hopes of being forgiven.
Eye for an Eye
While Thomas sat in his prison cell a few days after the arrest, he performed an atrocious act on himself. Thomas removed his eye from his eye socket with his bare hands. He quoted a verse from the Bible, “And if it causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you if you enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.”
Thomas was brought to the hospital where they tried to reattach his eye, but the doctors were unable to do so. Moving forward, Thomas was forced to wear mittens with restraints so that he was unable to harm himself or others. His Bible was also taken away from him.
During Thomas’ prison stay, he was to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist said that he spoke of his ex-wife and children, often in the present tense. He seemed completely unaware that they were dead, let alone that he murdered them.
During Thomas’ trial, the prosecution argued that Thomas was faking his mental illness. They pushed to the jury that he had a history of doing so, in order to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. The prosecution had no mercy, and was seeking the death penalty for Thomas.
The defense felt the complete opposite about Thomas’ actions. While they knew the crime’s committed were completely heinous, and sympathized tremendously with the deceased, they felt the system had failed Thomas for the entirety of his life. The defense pushed for the jury to finally send Thomas to get the serious help that he desperately needed.
It took the jury only a mere 45 minutes to decide that they sided with the prosecution. They felt that Thomas was mentally competent, and that he committed these terrible acts with full awareness. The jury sentenced him to the death penalty.
The judge looked at Thomas after the verdict was read. He asked if he wanted to say anything, and Thomas replied with an apology to Laura’s family. He said he wished he could take back what he did. Laura’s father replied, and said that the only person who could forgive Thomas at this point, was God.
Thomas was sent to the Polunsky Unit, where death row inmates were held before their execution. The suicide attempts did not stop. In 2008, he slashed his own throat with a razor. Months later, he gauged out his only remaining eyeball, and ate it.
This case brings to light many of the issues we come across with mental health in our country. Many believe that Texas lacks the appropriate funds for caring for the mentally ill. Activist’s believe that because of this, the state was unable to identify the seriousness of Thomas’ mental illness.