WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the appeal of a black Texas death row inmate who argued he did not get a fair trial because the jurors who sentenced him were opposed to interracial marriage.
The court’s three liberal justices opposed the court’s order dismissing inmate André Thomas’ appeal. He was sentenced to death for killing his ex-wife, who was white, and his two children in 2004.
“No jury deciding whether or not to recommend a death sentence should be tainted with potential racial bias that could infect its deliberations or decision, particularly when the case involved an interracial crime,” Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote. Judges Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson agreed with Sotomayor.
In the all-white jury, three people expressed their disapproval of interracial marriage, including one who wrote on a questionnaire “I think we should stay with our bloodline”.
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Thomas’s trial attorney did not seek to bar the three from serving on the jury and did not even question two of the three about their opinions, Sotomayor wrote. A juror said he could be fair despite his opinions.
Sotomayor wrote that Thomas’ conviction and death sentence should be overturned.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit previously dismissed Thomas’ claim that his attorney failed to provide competent representation.
The courts had previously rejected appeals by Thomas’ lawyers that Thomas should not be executed because he is mentally ill.
He confessed to killing his estranged wife, Laura Christine Boren, 20, their son, Andre Lee, 4, and 13-month-old daughter, Leyha Marie Hughes, in 2004. Thomas said God told him to commit murders. The victims were stabbed and had their hearts ripped out.
Five days later, in prison, he gouged out his eye. While on death row in 2009, he removed his remaining eye and told prison officials he ate it.
Thomas has no execution date.
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