Volume 56

"Life with the Imposition or Exacerbation of Severe Mental Illness and Chance of Death”: Why this Distinct Punishment Violates the Eighth Amendment

by Elena De Santis

When he was ten years old, Andre Thomas began telling classmates about the voices he heard in his head. He claimed that he could hear angels and demons arguing with one another, and he sometimes shouted back at the demons. He was still in elementary school when he first attempted suicide—he was still a kid. He tried to kill himself again when he was thirteen, and was put on suicide watch in a juvenile facility when he was fifteen. Thomas married Laura Boren when he was eighteen, though they separated after four months. After the separation, the voices in his head only got worse and he suffered from psychotic delusions. Thomas never received the adequate mental health care he so desperately needed. In 2004, he stormed into Laura’s apartment where she lived with her two children. He was holding three knives, one for each of his intended victims. He first stabbed Laura in the chest and pulled out what he believed was her heart (it was, in fact, part of her lung). He then moved towards the children’s room and stabbed his four-year-old son, Andre Jr., before stabbing her one-year-old daughter, Leyha. He carved out each of their hearts before trying to kill himself and failing. Thomas was confused as to why he did not die and turned himself in, asking if he would be forgiven. He later told investigators that he “thought it was what God wanted [him] to do.”

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