Thursday, October 9, 2008

TX Death Row Inmates Lose Appeals

Here's an update from the Associated Press regarding two Texas cases that involve issues of severe mental illness ("2 condemned killers in Texas lose appeals," October 8, 2008):

"A North Texas auto mechanic whose original death sentence for the 1987 murders of a man and a 4-month-old child was overturned on appeal had his 2nd death sentence upheld Wednesday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

In 1 of 2 death row cases rejected by the state's highest criminal appeals court, lawyers for inmate James Eugene Bigby contended there were 15 errors at his 2nd punishment trial in Tarrant County where jurors in September 2006 deliberated about 4 hours before handing down another death sentence.

In a 2nd case, the Austin-based appeals court upheld the conviction and death sentence of a Grayson County man accused of killing his wife, their son and her daughter. Andre Thomas, now 25, confessed to fatally stabbing all three in their chests in March 2004 and ripping out their hearts.

Neither Thomas nor Bigby has an execution date.

Bigby, now 43, had been convicted and condemned in 1991 for shooting MikeTrekell, who was cooking steaks for himself and Bigby, and drowning Trekell's 4-month-old son, Jayson, in a bathroom sink on Christmas Eve. He confessed to the slayings but pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

The 2 were among four people killed during a seven-hour spree by Bigby in Fort Worth and Arlington.
The 1st jury convicted Bigby of capital murder just hours after he grabbed a loaded gun from a drawer in state District Judge Don Leonard's bench, charged into Leonard's chambers and pointed the gun at him. The judge, a prosecutor and a bailiff eventually wrestled the gun away from Bigby.

Defense witnesses had testified that Bigby was a paranoid schizophrenic, but the jury rejected Bigby's insanity defense. The former Kennedale automechanic appealed.

In 2005, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Bigby's conviction but overturned his sentence, saying it violated a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juries should consider mitigating factors, such as mental illness, when deciding whether a defendant should die. The court said paranoid schizophrenia is a severe mental illness, and that Bigby had proven he had it at the time of the slayings.

Bigby's lawyers didn't dispute his actions but noted he'd been treated three times for mental disorders before the killings. They argued he shouldn't be executed because his paranoid schizophrenia and frustrations about a workers' compensation claim led to the killing spree. Prosecutors said drug use and his aggressive personality led to the killings.

In the latest appeal, Bigby challenged selection of some of the jurors, argued the indictment and jury instructions were faulty, again questioned the legality of mitigating evidence issues and the legality of the drugs used for lethal injection.

In Thomas' case, the maintenance man and laborer contended in his appeal that his trial court judge erroneously allowed into evidence video and audio tapes of his statements to police where he told about killing his estranged wife, Laura Christine Boren, their 4-year-old son, Andre Lee, and the woman's 13-month-old daughter, Leyha Marie Hughes.

He was convicted specifically of the infant's death.

Thomas, from Texoma, walked into the Sherman Police Department and told a dispatcher he had just murdered the three and had stabbed himself in the chest. He was taken to a hospital and agreed to speak with officers there. He also spoke later with detectives at the police department.

A judge said he understood rights and warnings that were explained to him.

Defense lawyers argued he suffered from mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse.

The appeals court, in upholding the conviction, ruled Thomas knowingly and intelligently waived his rights. The court also rejected arguments contesting jury selection and challenging introduction of crime scene photos and autopsy results of the victims other than the infant.

Other arguments turned down by the appeals court involved prosecution testimony about Thomas' sanity, that the court should have ruled on his competency before the trial, that his defense lawyers were incompetent and that the jury engaged in misconduct because following their verdicts they told the judge and lawyers they'd wanted to hear true remorse from Thomas.

In his statement to police, Thomas told how he put his victims' hearts in his pocket and left their apartment, took them home, put them in a plastic bag and threw them in the trash."

***
This article doesn't mention that Thomas gouged out his own eyeball while in a cell at the Grayson County jail, where he was awaiting trial. He was then declared incompetent to stand trial and sent to a mental hospital, but was released from care several months later. Doctors claimed that his condition had improved to the point that he would be able to understand the charges against him and help with his own defense.

Thomas' attorneys argued that he committed his crimes while suffering from severe, religious-based delusions about his wife. He was said to have quoted a Bible verse when he gouged out his eye: "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.'' (Mark 9:47)

1 comment:

Linda Santini, M.Ed. said...

The idea that "mental illness is incurable" is just part of Big Pharma's sales tactics to sell more drugs. After all, if a mental illness could be cured, the patient would no longer be a customer-for-life, dependent upon psychiatrist visits and their synthetic drugs. Japan has 30,000 orthomolecular practitioners and Brazil has 8,000 while the U.S. has a only a few hundred. This is the field of science in which the proven biological CAUSES of mental illness are detected with the right medical lab tests. Then whatever biochemical imbalances are found are rebalanced with biochemicals,(food supplements you can purchase at a health food store).Since these substances are (more) natural, the human body knows how to use them, unlike synthetic drugs. The American Psychiatric Assn, the APA, is in charge of all mental healthcare in the U.S. and they don't WANT anyone to know about this awesome method of treating mental illness. When a patient recovers he no longer needs a shrink or his drugs so there is no financial motive for the APA to promote orthomolecular medicine.