Thomas v. Director

Decision Date19 September 2016
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 4:09cv644
PartiesANDRE LEE THOMAS, #999493, Petitioner, v. DIRECTOR, TDCJ-CID, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas

ANDRE LEE THOMAS, #999493, Petitioner,

CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:09cv644


September 19, 2016


Petitioner Andre Lee Thomas, an inmate confined in the Texas prison system, filed the above-styled and numbered petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is challenging his capital murder conviction and death sentence imposed by the 15th Judicial District Court of Grayson County, Texas in Cause Number 051858, in a case styled The State of Texas v. Andre Thomas. For reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the petition is not well-taken and that it will be denied.

Procedural History of the Case

In March 2005, Petitioner was convicted of the capital murder of thirteen month old Leyha Marie Hughes, by cutting or stabbing her with a knife, in violation of Tex. Penal Code § 19.03(a)(8). He was found guilty after the jury rejected his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ("TCCA") affirmed the conviction and death sentence. Thomas v. State, No. AP-75218, 2008 WL 4531976 (Tex. Crim. App. Oct. 8, 2008) (unpublished). Petitioner did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari.

Petitioner filed his first application for a writ of habeas corpus in state court on June 8, 2007. The state trial court issued extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law on March 28, 2008. The TCCA subsequently denied relief based on the trial court's findings and conclusions and on its own

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review. Ex parte Thomas, No. WR-69859-01, 2009 WL 693606 (Tex. Crim. App. March 18, 2009) (unpublished).

Petitioner began the present proceedings on December 27, 2009. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on March 16, 2010 (docket entry #7). On April 22, 2010, the Court granted his unopposed motion to stay and hold the proceedings in abeyance while he pursued a second application for a writ of habeas corpus in state court. The application was dismissed as successive pursuant to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 11.071 § 5. Ex parte Thomas, No. WR-69859-02, 2010 WL 1795738 (Tex. Crim. App. May 5, 2010) (unpublished). On June 9, 2010, the Director was ordered to show cause why relief should not be granted. He filed an answer (docket entry #23) on May 11, 2011. Petitioner filed a reply (docket entry #35) on March 21, 2012.

Factual Background of the Case

The facts of the case were summarized in the concurring opinion denying habeas relief in state court as follows:

[Petitioner] has a severe mental illness. He suffers from psychotic delusions and perhaps from schizophrenia. He also has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. Because of his drug abuse, he was frequently truant, quit school in the ninth grade, and had a series of juvenile and adult arrests. Dr. Axelrad, called by both the State and defense, testified that the twenty-one-year-old [Petitioner] told him that he had been abusing alcohol since age ten and marijuana since age thirteen, and, in the month before the murders, had been taking large doses of Coricidin, a cold medicine, for recreational purposes.

[Petitioner's] behavior in the months before the killings became increasingly "bizarre": He put duct tape over his mouth and refused to speak; he talked about how the dollar bill contains the meaning of life; he stated that he was experiencing deja vu and reliving events time and again; he had a religious fixation and heard the voice of God. In the weeks before the murders, [Petitioner] was heard by others talking about his auditory and visual hallucinations of God and demons.

About twenty days before the killings, he took Coricidin and then tried to commit suicide by overdosing on other medications. He was taken to the local MHMR facility, but then walked away before he could be treated. Two days before the killings, he drank vodka and took about ten Coricidin tablets and then stabbed himself. His mother took him to the local hospital. But again, [Petitioner] left the hospital before he could be committed for observation or psychiatric treatment. On two occasions in the days before the killings, [Petitioner] was seen by friends to be highly intoxicated; they described him as vomiting, delirious, incapacitated, and lying on the floor.

At around 7:00 p.m. on March 26th, just one day after stabbing himself, [Petitioner] went to his estranged wife's apartment where she and her boyfriend, Bryant Hughes, were listening to religious audiotapes. According to [Petitioner's] statement to police, he had come

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to believe that God wanted him to kill his wife, Laura, because she was "Jezebel," to kill his four-year-old son, Andre, Jr., because he was the "Anti-Christ," and to kill his wife's daughter, thirteen-month old Leyha, because she, too, was evil. That evening, [Petitioner] saw Bryant twisting an extension cord as they listened to the religious tapes, and he thought that Bryant also wanted to strangle Laura and the children. [Petitioner] wanted to make "the first move," so he walked into Laura's kitchen to find a knife, but then decided that it was not the right time. Bryant drove applicant home around 10:00 p.m.

[Petitioner] reported that the next morning he woke up and heard a voice that he thought was God telling him that he needed to stab and kill his wife and the children using three different knives so as not to "cross contaminate" their blood and "allow the demons inside them to live." He walked over to Laura's apartment. He saw Bryant drive by and wave, so [Petitioner] believed that this was a signal that he was doing "the right thing" by killing his wife and the children.

He burst into the apartment, then stabbed and killed Laura and the two children. He used a different knife on each one of the victims, and then he carved out the children's hearts and stuffed them into his pockets. He mistakenly cut out part of Laura's lung, instead of her heart, and put that into his pocket. He then stabbed himself in the heart which, he thought, would assure the death of the demons that had inhabited his wife and the children. But he did not die, so he walked home, changed his clothes, and put the hearts into a paper bag and threw them in the trash. He walked to his father's house with the intention of calling Laura, whom he had just killed. He called Laura's parents instead and left a message on their answering machine:

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?

[Petitioner] then walked back to his trailer where his girlfriend, Carmen Hayes, and his cousin, Isaiah Gibbs, were waiting for him. He told them that he had just killed his wife and the two children. Ms. Hayes took him to the Sherman Police Department and he told the police what he had done. After he was hospitalized for his chest wound, he was taken to jail, and he gave a videotaped statement to the police. In that videotaped statement, [Petitioner] gives a very calm, complete, and coherent account of his activities and his reasons for them.

Five days after the killings, [Petitioner] was in his cell with his Bible. After reading a Bible verse to the effect that, "If thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out," [Petitioner] gouged out his right eye. [Petitioner] was examined for competency to stand trial by two psychologists and was evaluated by a treating psychologist in jail, all of whom agreed that [Petitioner] was not then competent to stand trial. All three provided a diagnosis or opinion of "Schizophreniform Disorder with a Rule out of Substance Induced Psychotic Disorder due to [Petitioner's] recent history of abusing Coricidin."

After approximately five weeks of treatment and medication in the Vernon State Hospital, [Petitioner] was found to have regained his competency to stand trial. During his stay at Vernon, [Petitioner] was placed on Zyprexa, a strong anti-psychotic medication, and did not display "bizarre or unusual behaviors," but he did make "hyper-religious statements throughout his stay." The attending psychiatrist at Vernon updated applicant's diagnosis as being Substance-Induced Psychosis with Delusions and Hallucinations. He also diagnosed [Petitioner] as malingering (as did a psychologist).

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[Petitioner] was returned to Grayson County to stand trial. Several different psychiatrists and psychologists-both for the State and [Petitioner]-interviewed and tested [Petitioner] in anticipation for the capital murder trial. By that time, [Petitioner] was fully alert, conversant, and attentive. His memory tested well, he spoke at a level consistent with his tested I.Q. of 112, and he behaved appropriately during the interviews. He told one psychiatrist in December 2004 that he had not experienced any hallucinations since September, although he was severely depressed.

At trial, the jury rejected his insanity plea and found [Petitioner] guilty of the capital murder of thirteen-month-old Leyha. Based upon the jury's answers to the special punishment issues, the trial judge sentenced him to death.

Ex parte Thomas, 2009 WL 693606, at *1-3 (Cochran, J., concurring) (footnotes omitted).

Grounds for Relief

Petitioner brings the following grounds for relief:

1. Petitioner was deprived of his right to a fair trial under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution because he was not competent to stand trial.

2. Defense counsels' failure to move for a competency hearing following Petitioner's return from Vernon State Hospital was constitutionally ineffective.

3. Race dynamics pervaded every aspect of Petitioner's trial in violation

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