Utterly Nuts, but Sane Enough to Execute in Texas


105 Responses to “Utterly Nuts, but Sane Enough to Execute in Texas”

  1. Rotwang says:

    What do you have to eat before you’re officially crazy in Texas…a green salad?

  2. zuzu says:

    Conversely, aren’t most murderers (outside the military) “crazy” too?

    Not to mention the whole can of worms of defining “crazy”.

  3. Frank says:

    Not to point out the obvious but doing one crazy thing doesn’t necessarily make you crazy, especially when doing that crazy think might be to convince everyone that you are crazy, which was in this guy’s best interest to do.

  4. buddy66 says:

    Military murderers go crazy afterwards.

  5. susanberkley says:

    Would a blue eyeball taste different from, say, a green eyeball?

  6. bardfinn says:

    Summary of incident

    On 3/27/2004 in Grayson County, Texas, Thomas entered the residence of his wife, a twenty year old white female, and fatally stabbed her. He then fatally stabbed his son, a 4 year old male, and his step-daughter, a 13 month old female. Thomas then left the scene, walked home and stabbed himself three times in the chest.

    There are just no words.

  7. roboton says:

    It’s funny to me because you know, claiming that “texas” is ingorant is a really ignorant thing to say…

    Those are the bullshit comments that need disemvowelling.

  8. flipcloud says:

    Pt hm dwn. Stp pyng t kp hm i cg nd fd. I’m not seeing him becoming a constructive part of society… and I think that’s the call a judge needs to make.

  9. Frank W says:

    @ Roboton:
    New Mexico is part of the civilised world, as of this week. Texas is not.

  10. Neon Tooth says:

    Besides, if “Texas” is executing children and the mentally handicapped, then All Of America is torturing innocents in Guantanamo, and illegally invading foreign countries based on trumped-up charges. And I won’t be criticized by a bunch of torturing warmongers.

    And where does the guy who started all that over the last eight years hail from?……

  11. JoshuaZ says:

    The basic idea; that someone can be insane but still responsible for most of their actions isn’t unreasonable. Under the McNaughton rule what matters is whether the person understood that their actions were wrong. Thus, someone could have all sorts of mental problems and still be criminally liable.

    That said, I have trouble seeing this person as being sane under McNaughton. The fact that prior to the murders the individual went to a hospital for mental treatment suggests that the individual had a problem and understood that. Moreover, once someone is claiming that God told them to do something, claims that they knew what they were doing is wrong are generally very hard to justify. Even sane theists will frequently equate morality with whatever God wants. All the more so when the individual is hearing voices.

  12. zuzu says:

    Military murderers go crazy afterwards.

    That’s why we keep them on anti-depression medication as part of the stop-loss program, for endless tours of duty.

    Or as Gene Roddenberry injected into the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Where humans learned to control their military with drugs.” (~6:00)

  13. Anonymous says:

    I honestly don’t understand the insanity plea. To me, everyone should be equally responsible for their actions, no matter their state of mind.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Well to me the question is: why does it matter what his mental state is now as opposed to when the murders were committed? Why do we insist that convicts be sane when executed? I certainly understand why we worry about their sanity while the crime was committed and during the trial.

  15. Takuan says:

    would it be possible somehow to divide Texas? You know, put all the insane in one area and the normal people in another?

  16. godfathersoul says:

    first thing i read (almost) this morning… that is totally disgusting… but here i am reading the comments…

  17. jayb3369 says:

    My new favorite aphorism: “Sane enough for Texas.”

  18. Clif Marsiglio says:

    I do not support the death penalty but there are various levels of crazy.

    The BIG legal one is Did You Know What You Are Doing Is Wrong….almost as simple as that. Laws are different in every state, but that is the gist of it.

    If you sleepstab (I sing in my sleep, so I guess some people might stab in theirs) and somehow stab your significant in your sleep, you are fucking crazy, but most likely innocent of this. If you sleepstab while dreaming of killing your wife…this is different. If you almost stabbed someone in the past and KNOW you might do it again and do nothing to stop yourself, that too could be considered guilt. If you’ve done it in the past, got therapy and told you were cured…well, there is now a job opening somewhere for me.

    And this is why there are a myriad of laws such as Innocent Due To Mental Illness, or Guilty But Mentally Ill or blah blah blah…

    Honestly, any execution of a human is a product of the dark ages…of the insane? no more or less barbaric taking one of their lives as it is anyone else…

  19. aldasin says:

    That’s messed up, but are we doing the guy any favors by keeping him alive?
    Yeah I know it’s bad law and not a good precedent to set, but – damn.

  20. Moriarty says:

    @#2: I don’t know how Texas law defines it, but from a standpoint of political philosophy, it’s actually pretty easy to define, if still very difficult to actually determine. Basically, he is ethically responsible for his actions if he is capable of altering those actions in response to being held responsible. It’s pointless to pass a law forbidding rocks to fall to the ground, dogs to sniff themselves, or the batshit insane to do batshit insane stuff, since doing so won’t stop a single instance of any of those things. A guy who understands the fact that murder is considered wrong and is capable of making rational choices, however, would be held responsible, since holding such people responsible is a deterrent to murder.

  21. demidan says:

    To quote Nick Cave, that man is “as crazy as a sack full of assholes”.

    Constructive member of society or not (FLIPCLOUD), put this man somewhere where he can’t hurt himself or others and study him, not put the poor bastard to death. (FRANK) doing “once crazy thing doesn’t necessarily make you crazy,,,”, really? Really?

    I guess we Americans are just jaded. We have forsaken compassion for profit and obviously can’t be bothered to fix the underlying causation. Lock ‘em up, and then kill ‘em. Yay!

  22. buddy66 says:

    Many years down the line, most soldiers realize that the war they went to was the *forever war* (to continue the SyFy reference).

    Execution is too expensive. It costs a minimum of a million bucks to kill a prisoner. A true conservative would recognize this and opt for making the motherfuckers stamp license plates for the rest of their lives.

  23. David Newland says:

    Clearly not, since I’ve said that I don’t support state-sanctioned killing.

    I only pointed out that the argument about occasionally executing the innocent is a red herring, since we we frequently release criminals who then go out and kill innocent people.

  24. jowlsey says:

    Definitely not wonderful.

  25. PathogenAntifreeze says:

    We don’t kill wild bears just because they aren’t human.

    We do kill wild animals that kill humans, most every time. And my perhaps-controversial contribution to this thread is that those situations are far less justified than the killing of “wild” humans who’ve proven themselves too dangerous to have around. The animals didn’t grow up in human society exposed to our value judgments; they don’t have mental capability to understand our values; and usually, it’s the humans who encroached on their territory causing the fatal encounters.

    All those factors in place, when a wild bear/alligator/dog/wombat kills or even injures a child, the animal that knew no better is terminated. Not as punishment; not as rehabilitation; not as an example… but for the safety of our society. I’m certain some people will disagree with that practice. I live in a city where I read weekly news stories about *humans* who are not terminated for their crimes but jailed for a short while, returned to society, and they injure/rape/kill again. That is injustice.

    Capital punishment may mean a lot of different things to different people. I find that it precludes repeat offenders, and that is a reasonable desire on society’s part.

  26. pewma says:

    Don’t you have to be kind of crazy to kill your wife and 13 month old child in the first place?

  27. thedarkbackward says:

    Who’s to say God DIDN’T tell him to do it?

    I mean, let’s look at the Almighty’s pattern of behavior here, people.

  28. Bart says:

    What I find interesting in the whole “he knew it was wrong” argument is his claim at the time of his arrest that God told him to do it. If God (or FSM) chooses to speak to you, and you do it, that either makes you crazy or a prophet. I think either of those conditions would qualify for not knowing it was wrong. If you really believe your god told you to do it, then you really believe that its wrong.

    Though, this is Texas, where executing people with diminished mental capacities qualifies as a state tradition.

  29. mdh says:

    Those are the bullshit comments that need disemvowelling.

    DMV’ing poorly used profanity is far more justified.

  30. DarthVain says:

    They probably want to kill mentally retarded people and small children as well.

    The guy is obviously insane by his actions that put him in jail, and more recently for plucking out his only freaking eye and eating it.

    I believe that is what you call holy batshit insane.

    However as someone pointed out we may not be doing this guy any favors by keeping him alive. However that is a slippery slope, when we start talking about stuff like that. Its called Euthanasia. Why stop at those in pain. How about Mentally challenged folks, or mentally ill for that matter.

    We recently had a court decision up here in Canada that upset some people. Basically a wackjob on a bus, stabbed the guy sitting next to him a couple hundred times and then decapitated him.

    He was acquitted by the crown as not mentally capable and sent to a mental institution. The family wanted a life prison sentence.

    It was pointed out by one of the lawyers however that if sent to prison, someone can get parole, and get out early. No such thing in a mental ward. They keep you there until they deem you “better”. If that takes the rest of you natural life, too bad. No appeal, no parole. So really better in the end anyway.

    Also on top of that is the question of what the purpose is, Rehabilitation or Punishment. You are not sending someone like that to prison to try and make them better, or help them. You just don’t want them free anymore. What about prisoners who are their to be rehabilitated, not really fair to have that jerk as your bunk mate eh?

    Anyway if you have capitol punishment, you are washing your hands of rehabilitation, your just getting vengeance through punishment. To say otherwise is simply untrue.

  31. Dewi Morgan says:

    But how much does it cost to house and feed and guard a person for life and make them stamp license plates? Typical wage for one person times a lifetime is going to be at least a million dollars. Kill them faster would be my answer, but on the other hand, people are talking quadrillions of dollars in other arenas at the moment, which makes a million seem hardly worth worrying about.

  32. jonathan_v says:

    I like how this news breaks right after Bill Richardson repeals the Death Penalty in New Mexico.

  33. gandalf23 says:

    What I think #50 meant was that if a crazy person commits a crime like murder, and who would be killed by the state if he’s sane for committing that crime, why grant him a reprieve if he is insane? If insanity is not knowing that the actions you took were wrong, then what is going to prevent you from doing those actions again? They were not wrong, so why not do it again? Even if you’re locked up in prison or a mental hospital for the rest of your life, how do we protect the other inmates/patients/guards/doctors/nurses from your crazy violent ass? 24/7 solitary confinement? 24/7 restraints? 24/7 drugged to immobility? Are those more humane?

  34. Brettspiel says:

    He may be crazy now, but was he crazy when he killed her?

    Going crazy in jail doesn’t get you off the hook.

    Killing your family doesn’t mean you’re crazy.

  35. mdh says:

    Red herring makes a great last meal.

  36. Anonymous says:

    @ JoshuaZ & Clif Marsiglio
    succinct and informative. nice to see some nuance explained in the comments section instead of the usual populist angry mob stuff.

  37. Brainspore says:

    @ #73 posted by knodi:

    This is being done by some Texans, not all Texans, and not by the State Of Texas. Yes, they’re doing it in the State’s name, but, honestly, and please don’t disemvowel this, fuck all you people bashing Texas.

    I wouldn’t presume to bash the state or the residents of Texas due to this trial, but it’s a perfectly legitimate observation to note that the Texas legal system has a well-documented history of playing fast and free with the death penalty.

    Criticizing “Texas” for how the state applies the death penalty is just as legitimate as criticizing “America” for its middle east policy. As in, “America never should have invaded Iraq.” Sure, I could say “George W. Bush and his supporters never should have manipulated the congress or other well-meaning American people into supporting the invasion of Iraq,” but hey, I’ve got shit do do.

    So the shorthand version of my opinion on this topic is thus: Texas has a really bad record when it comes to how the state applies the death penalty.

  38. LightningRose says:

    Life is cheap in Texas.

  39. ral8158 says:

    @TiwazTyrsfist: Read your own post and think about what you’ve said. 400 murders, minimum security mental hospital: Do you REALLY think anyone commenting on this thread would support that as being an appropriate response?
    What’s the age when children develop the ability to empathize and understand views they don’t agree with, 11?

    @Takuan: By insane, you mean the people continuing the state sanctioned murder machine, right? hah

  40. stosh machek says:

    what misery ….seems right to end it

  41. KevinC says:

    I was replying specifically to GavinD’s (#57) remarks. I was also NOT speaking to the problems with the duration of sentences.

    You are arguing that capital punishment is justified when a repeat offender is released and kills again?

    I will repeat the fact that mistakes are made. Innocent people have been put to death. How is that justified? It isn’t. THAT is injustice!

    Putting someone in jail for a life term (a real life term) removes the person from society. There is not a second, state sanctioned, homicide and they have their whole life to prove there innocence. Problem solved.

    Personally, I just assume that anyone pro-capital punishment is really just looking at it like revenge. This should/is not the charter of the justice system. The people who admit the motivation of revenge should be embarrassed.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Can we all agree to avoid the Talking Point: You oppose the death penalty? That means that you want to put murderers on the street and in the kindergartens! It’s tedious.

  42. Lookforthewoman says:

    @#19 – Spot on.

    Also, in Canada it’s not up to the Judge or Jury to decide if someone is “fit” or not, we leave that up to the medical professionals.

    What good does it do us as a society to kill the ones who need the most help? What this man did was tragic, but he ATE HIS OWN EYEBALLS! How can that be an act? Unmedicated people suffering hallucinations are often self harming in an effort to stop the hallucinations. (Van Gogh)

  43. Tom Hale says:

    Dth s lmst t knd pnshmnt fr smn lk ths. ‘d rthr pt hm nt cll wth bnch f thr ppl lk hmslf, rm thm ll wth rzr blds nd lt thm xct pnshmnt n thmslvs.

  44. didymos says:

    @#14: I’ve seen figures like the one you’re talking about, and most of them are misleading. They’re generally factoring the cost of the trial into the figure, which is ridiculous, as the trial would happen *regardless* of whether the accused is sentenced to death.

    Even if that number was an honest measure of the cost to execute a prisoner, it’s still the less expensive option. Housing, clothing, and feeding a prisoner costs approximately $50k per year. At 20 years, you’ve already met that one-million dollar mark. And I suspect that any criminal that our legal system would be willing to sentence to death is a criminal that, without the death penalty, our legal system would be willing to put in jail for more than 20 years.

    It’s fine if you want to argue against capital punishment, but suggesting that executing a convict is somehow more expensive than imprisoning that same convict for life is just plain disingenuous.

  45. pastafaria says:

    When the government kills people, that’s on all of us. This is Texas, so the blood is only on Texans hands, but when the feds or your state kill people they are killing people in your name.

    I, for one, would rather not kill people.

  46. Moriarty says:


    “Anyway if you have capitol punishment, you are washing your hands of rehabilitation, your just getting vengeance through punishment. To say otherwise is simply untrue.”

    That’s assuming rehabilitation and vengeance are the only two rationales, but they aren’t. In fact, you’re missing the most important one: deterrence. Now, I happen to be against the death penalty, because there is no evidence it’s an effective deterrent. But punishments for crimes in general exist primarily to prevent other crimes.

    A fourth rationale is simply to remove dangerous and antisocial people from society. But that’s not relevant here, as the death penalty, life in prison, or life in a mental institution all accomplish that equally well.

  47. flipcloud says:

    @ Demidan— he could have been naked in a padded room and clawed his own eye(s?) out. Not sure how you’d keep man who desperately wants to hurt himself from doing so and still consider it humane. And that’s if we give him the benefit of the doubt and say that these actions are legitimately indicators of insanity (not desperation). I’d say drugging him up or tying him down so we could use him as the science class pet is no more compassionate (or less God-like) than my suggestion of helping him out the door he was already trying to open. I think just because we now have the capability to keep a human being who has acted in this manner alive(not randomly selecting victims, these were all close relations and two of them children) doesn’t mean it’s the way to go.

  48. zuzu says:

    No such thing in a mental ward. They keep you there until they deem you “better”. If that takes the rest of you natural life, too bad. No appeal, no parole. So really better in the end anyway.

    The flip side of that is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest though.

  49. Ugly Canuck says:

    Crazy laws for crazy ppeople.
    You all oughtn’t be killing anybody: who cares if some Judge says it’s OK?

  50. cycle23 says:

    Mmm. utter nuts.

  51. clarkie604 says:

    Insanity in the criminal context is a very complicated issue. Most states have actually carefully considered the issue and created statutory schemes that attempt to balance society’s interest in punishment, reformation, deterrence, and general justice (as in not punishing actors who are not culpable because of insanity).

    Surely an imperfect system, but not necessarily a bad one. We shouldn’t judge a system bad just because we read that a person did a horrific and unbelievable thing and then wasn’t found insane. There are other factors.

    @#2 Thinking of criminal punishment solely as a deterrent surely is a nice thought, but not realistic. Social science is discovering that, for example, actors are generally not deterred more from murdering when the death penalty is an option than when it is not.

    So what we really have left as justification of our penal system is (i) you are being punished for the bad thing you did, (2) you are being kept off the streets so you can no longer injure society, and (3) we are doing this for your own good, so we can teach you to be better.

    In a perfect world, maybe reform would be a number 1 priority. But is reform possible for all inmates? Which ones? And how do we do it? I don’t think it is a matter of bad people in the court and criminal justice systems that hate criminals or that even don’t care. I think the problem is too many questions without answers.

  52. chris says:

    “I’m not crazy – institutionalized
    You’re the one who’s crazy -institutionalized
    You’re driving me crazy – institutionalized
    They stuck me in an institution
    Said it was the only solution
    To give me the needed professional help
    To protect me from the enemy — myself.”

    random guitar soloing….

  53. Brainspore says:

    @ #19 posted by DarthVain

    They probably want to kill mentally retarded people and small children as well.

    Texas has a long and proud history of executing both minors and the mentally retarded.

    Personally I can’t understand how anyone “civilized” society can still support the death penalty, especially given what we know about how it has been implemented.

  54. GuidoDavid says:

    At least somebody pays attention and the issue is debated. If you do not like it and find it tedious, there are plenty of posts around where you can watch drilldoes and dolphins.

    And I have changed my mind in a lot of issues thanks to Internet discussions with rational people and good arguments. So, this debate is wonderful thing instead. And yes, it sucks that there are a lot of people who don’t appreciate life at all.

  55. Gutierrez says:

    How would this actually work legally? If the court finds him having a mental disease or defect, does that overturn the previous conviction? If so, is he set free? Does double jeopardy apply? Or is the sentence revoked and a new one applied? Or is he just appealing for an indefinite stay of execution?

    Having visited some of the Texas state schools and psych facilities when I took abnormal psychology a few years back I don’t know how to weigh being placed in one of those facilities under heavy medication until death versus euthanasia.

  56. shadowfirebird says:

    Wow. Hats off to everyone who implied (or actually expressed the view) that people on death row should be killed because they were a burden on the taxpayer (eg, Dewi Morgan); or because they weren’t somehow of any use to society (eg, Flipcloud).

    Do you really want to live in a country that kills off people for not being useful, or for costing too much?

  57. demidan says:

    The cost of keeping someone in prison seems to very quite a bit. From $25.000 a year for a median offender ( http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/prisonValue.php ) to $100.000 a year for a sex offender ( http://www.speakout.org.za/events/news/usa/news_sex_offenders_4thmarch2007.htm )

    So,,,lots o money just to perpetuate the criminal lifestyle.

  58. clarkie604 says:

    Insanity is an issue in several instances. First, if you were insane when you performed the act (couldn’t help yourself or didn’t know what you did) then you will (may) be found not guilty by reason of insanity. If you are insane at the time of trial (don’t understand the nature of what is going on) then you won’t go to trial — you’ll stay in a mental institution until you’re better, then you’ll go to trial. I believe that you also cannot be executed if you are insane at the time of execution — but I’m not sure on that one.

  59. vlu77 says:

    so many mentally incompetent people are executed in the united states. as well as innocent people, people who committed crimes when they were minors, etc etc etc.

    but in really happy news, new mexico just outlawed the death penalty!

  60. KevinC says:

    @Antinous – oh god, can we please.

  61. Brother Provisional says:

    @ #23 “Life is cheap in Texas.”

    Yup. Speaking of which;


  62. Slicklines says:

    So. Someone please tell my why this even remotely belongs in a blog subtitled “A Directory of Wonderful Things.” Come on, Boing Boing. I can see this stuff on the five o’clock news.

  63. Neon Tooth says:

    Can we give Texas back to Mexico?

  64. knodi says:

    This is being done by some Texans, not all Texans, and not by the State Of Texas. Yes, they’re doing it in the State’s name, but, honestly, and please don’t disemvowel this, fuck all you people bashing Texas.

    It’s just a state like any other. Criticizing individuals is fine, but criticizing a class of people is bigotry.

    Besides, if “Texas” is executing children and the mentally handicapped, then All Of America is torturing innocents in Guantanamo, and illegally invading foreign countries based on trumped-up charges. And I won’t be criticized by a bunch of torturing warmongers.

  65. BCJ says:

    I feel that someone should mention The Untelleported Man/Lies Inc in some way.

  66. noen says:

    This has nothing to do with his mental condition. Dude is black, his wife was white and they both lived in Texas. That’s all you need to know.

    There is a mini holocaust going on all across America, particularly in the South but also in other areas. People of color are being imprisoned in numbers that far outstrip those of whites. America has a system of institutional racism that systematically oppresses and subordinates people of color. The prison system in America, and especially in Texas, preferentially selects the poor and racial minorities. It singles out blacks and minorities for harsh treatment while at the same time protecting whites from even entering the prison system.

    If this man was truly mentally ill and not merely driven insane by an unjust, system of racial apartheid (a fair characterization of race conditions in the South), then why was he going untreated? Simple, because he was poor and black and living in America.

  67. Conan says:

    Perhaps his eye offended him?

  68. buddy66 says:

    I call bullshit on you bloodthirsty types:

    “It’s 10 times more expensive to kill them than to keep them alive,” though most Americans believe the opposite, said Donald McCartin, a former California jurist known as “The Hanging Judge of Orange County” for sending nine men to death row.

    Deep into retirement, he lost his faith in an eye for an eye and now speaks against it. What changed a mind so set on the ultimate punishment?

    California’s legendarily slow appeals system, which produces an average wait of nearly 20 years from conviction to fatal injection — the longest in the nation. Of the nine convicted killers McCartin sent to death row, only one has died. Not by execution, but from a heart attack in custody.

    “Every one of my cases is bogged up in the appellate system,” said McCartin, who retired in 1993 after 15 years on the bench.

    “It’s a waste of time and money,” said the 82-year-old, self-described right-wing Republican whose sonorous voice still commands attention. “The only thing it does is prolong the agony of the victims’ families.”

  69. dbarak says:

    I’m against the death penalty mainly because of the “oops” factor. What if an innocent person is convicted and sentenced to death? You can’t reverse an execution. At least with a prison sentence, you can “partially” reverse the mistake. Or what about cases in which there is misconduct on the part of the prosecutors, police, defense counsel, judge, jury…?

    As for rehabilitation, I’m for making an attempt, but I always keep “A Clockwork Orange” in mind.

  70. tim says:

    Anyway if you have capitol punishment, you are washing your hands of rehabilitation, your just getting vengeance through punishment

    Whilst I’m reasonably convinced of the need for capitol punishment (or parliament, or assembly or whatever place you put your politicians in) I suspect you meant ‘capital’ punishment. Which I don’t like.

  71. Anonymous says:

    For the few of you suggesting that one act does not make one crazy, keep in mind that he only had one eye because he plucked the other one out in 2004.

    Here’s the article from January when he pulled out the second eye.

    I think there is no dispute here that the man is clearly insane. I don’t know for a fact what state he was or is in, and I don’t know if he fully understands what he did, given that I don’t have access to him, or his information (and neither does anyone else reading this). I still don’t think the death penalty is the answer. Put him in the care of a psychiatrist if he’s as gone as it sounds like he is, if he’s mostly there, then put him to work in the prison.

    The death penalty is wrong. Taking an eye for an eye will leave us all just like Andre Thomas: blind murderers. By the way, I’m a Texan (I even went to college in the town where he turned himself in).

  72. LOSERKID says:

    hey ok so what happend to his other eye thats what i want to know

  73. PathogenAntifreeze says:

    You are arguing that capital punishment is justified when a repeat offender is released and kills again?

    Absolutely! Why even bother to have police, prosecutors, and prisons if it’s just a queue system? I’m tired of paying for such a wasteful appearance of government protecting its citizens. That said, if the real, permanent incarceration you suggest were made the serious alternative to a death sentence in such cases, I wouldn’t press my point much further.

    As for the mistakes situation, I agree; I know there are real cases where someone was executed on a wrongful conviction. That said, I also know that a good number of those cases are where the person was sentenced to death because the conviction was for their latest homicide, etc… Some of these “innocent” cases aren’t what they appear in the raw numbers or headlines. The whole system needs to be rebuilt. Perhaps there should be a second standard on death sentencing using “shadow of a doubt” instead of “reasonable doubt.”

    In the case of this particular person, stabber of family and eater of eyeball, his mental issues just further the fact that he does not need to walk freely in society, ever again, and that while incarcerated and alive, he’ll continue to do whatever harm he can… in this case, thankfully to himself instead of say, the medical staff. He’s a lot less salvageable than the stray bear that mauls a child, and equally dangerous to cage and care for.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      his mental issues just further the fact that he does not need to walk freely in society, ever again

      With whom, exactly, are you arguing this point? Did you not see my warning about retread talking points and about comparing people to animals?

  74. Anonymous says:

    People really need to do proper research on recidivism rates — the more serious the crime, the *less* likely re-offence.

    According to the American Federal Government, murder and rape have less than 30% recidivism, petty theft and marijuana possession are the *only* crimes over 50%.

    Prison of any kind is a hell of a disincentive.

  75. nehpetsE says:

    Anyone can be driven to kill under the wrong circumstances.

    Most killing is a form of externalized suicide.

    The only people who can survive committing murder (and that includes killing during war)with out going somewhat crazy, are people who are natural sociopaths or are very very good at compartmentalization.

    As countries go, The U.S. is good at creating mayhem and death, but as individual citizens, even our trained soldiers do very poorly at dealing with the aftermath of having killed. This latter “weakness” actually reflects rather well on us as a people.

    The death penalty is a form societal suicide and is by nature unhealthy for everyone.

    However i do tend to think persons, (especially murdery ones) who are broken beyond possible repair should be allowed to suicide quietly.

  76. Davevonnatick says:

    Hmmm… and I thought justice was blind. ;-0 (sorry)

  77. Lookforthewoman says:

    @ PathogenAntifreeze

    As for the mistakes situation, I agree; I know there are real cases where someone was executed on a wrongful conviction. That said, I also know…

    I like how you gloss over the “mistakes situation” as if there were “acceptable losses” when it comes to killing people.

  78. PathogenAntifreeze says:

    This has nothing to do with his mental condition. Dude is black, his wife was white and they both lived in Texas. That’s all you need to know.

    Since moving to the former confederacy, I will say that there is a sad ring of truth to what you say there. In fact, it caused me to pause (I didn’t realize it was a “mixed couple,” and I know of modern-day shadiness around the topic in this region). So, I took a look at the article. I urge you to do the same. If not, here’s the quote that wraps it up for me:

    His wife and their 4-year-old son were killed in the same attack. The victims were stabbed and their hearts were ripped out. Thomas, 26, of Texoma, walked into the Sherman Police Department, admitted to the killings and said God told him to commit them.

    His entire defense has been around being crazy, drunk, or high… this is not a “you got the wrong guy” or “the cops then grabbed the black dude, because he was black” situation. This is a situation of someone who is very clearly dangerous being sentenced to death. I’d agree with the decision no matter what race he or the victims were, and I doubt more than a crazy handful of racist people would change their opinion on this case (either direction), were the races different.

  79. travis08 says:

    I am not for capital punishment, but if I we are going to allow it, shouldn’t it be the crazy ones that get punished first?

  80. EH says:


  81. PathogenAntifreeze says:

    I like how you gloss over the “mistakes situation” as if there were “acceptable losses” when it comes to killing people.

    Actually, I don’t think those are “acceptable losses.” I mentioned it as a lead up to my suggestion that a more careful standard be used in death sentencing, i.e. shadow of a doubt instead of current reasonable doubt. I’m definitely not saying the system is fine the way it is, even if I support capital punishment in certain cases, like this one, where it’s clearly not mistaken identity, etc…

  82. KingAlbert says:

    With regards to the eye question, there is a known psychological problem, Body Integrity Identity Disorder, that causes people to want to remove body parts. Such people can be perfectly sane in other ways.

  83. Shane says:

    Personally, I’m opposed to the death penalty. But, if we must have it, can we not be a little more, say, consistent? That said, if we can execute this gentlemen, surely, we can execute Bernie Madoff or the guy who ran that Peanut factory that was in the news a couple weeks ago.


  84. sycorax says:

    I apologize if this has already been said; I haven’t finished reading all the posts yet.

    I don’t know if this is universal in the United States, but I do know that in many states the legal definition of “sane” is only that one can differentiate between “right and wrong” in a moral sense. The legal definition of sanity is different from our normal conception of mental illness and insanity, so it’s possible to be crazy but legally sane at the same time.

    So if you murder someone because the voices said you must, and then you drink your victim’s blood and keep their major organs in your fridge, it’s very obvious you’re crazy; however, if you confirm under oath (say, to a forensic psychologist) that you realized that what you were doing was wrong, you’re still sane for purposes of things like whether or not you get the death penalty.

    The idea is that we can only “excuse” murder (as far as murder can be excused) if the person who commits it doesn’t fully understand the moral ramifications of their actions, or is so far gone mentally that they truly believe that what they are doing is morally right, for example if a mother suffering from postpartum psychosis murders her newborn because God told her to in order to spare the child the suffering and hardship in this world.

    While I’m not sure about the specifics of this case or the laws in Texas, if the above is true for Texas as in other states, it’s very possible that the state has decided, due to evidence from the man’s own testimony or interviews with a competent psychologist, that while the man is obviously mentally ill, he still retains his sense of moral right and wrong, and committed his original crime–the murder of a 13-month-old child, an egregious crime if there ever was one–despite knowing it was wrong, and therefore according to the laws is fully accountable for his actions.

    Furthermore, prisoners on death row are known to sometimes engage in acts of self-injury in the hopes of getting to plea insanity. The more outlandish or ghoulish the act, the better the “proof” of insanity, right? Some of these guys will take it to extremes. The threat of death will drive people to do crazy things to avoid it–just think of all the guys who would shoot themselves in the foot or otherwise injure themselves in order to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War.

  85. Lookforthewoman says:

    I support capital punishment in certain cases, like this one, where it’s clearly not mistaken identity

    No one has ever refuted it was him, he turned himself in after all, but that was not my point.

    My point is that any system where humans are responsible for judging if another human being is going to live or die is going to contain errors and slights of bias and will be corrupt, we are human after all. We will never be able to have an error free system of judgement, in the light of that I think putting people death, whether guilty of heinous crimes or not is wrong. Any margin of error is going to be too large, one person wrongly killed will be too many.

  86. Big Ed Dunkel says:

    I say a karate kick to the throat by Jerry Seinfeld.

  87. Slicklines says:

    @ Guidodavid: So you are prepared to claim that endless ranting over a subject that has been flogged to death somehow means you care about justice? Read the posts. No one has convinced anyone of anything, and even one of the moderators was forced to admit that at least part of this ranting was “tedious.” Understatement of the year. The more cynical side of me wonders if these obvious troll-bait posts aren’t made to increase the number of responses. I could be wrong about that (and I hope I am) but you will never convince me that posts on this thread will somehow lead the world toward or away from justice.

  88. GavinD says:

    The whole subject of capital punishment is a moral gray area, to be sure. For me, there comes a point where a person is so far “gone” that I do not recognize him/her as a human anymore, and begin to see them as a malfunctioning biological machine. The unit in question is not serviceable at this level, therefore we either scrap it (if one is an atheist) or send it to the depot level for remanufacturing (if one is religious). Either way, it’s foolish to just hang onto it. I know this post will get me flamed, but arguing from an emotional standpoint will land everyone in the same moral gray area anyway.

  89. KevinC says:

    #81 – So, instead of being pretty sure- the jurors need to be really really sure.

    The safety of the prison staff is a non issue. Believe me, precautions are taken.

    All I am trying to get across is that homicide is homicide. Even if the state does it. Just because capital punishment is legal does not make is right (Legal Positivism).

    I’m out.

  90. Bevatron Repairman says:

    I think capital punishment is used far too broadly and quite inconsistently. I’m not morally opposed at all, but the economics of it are stupid. I’d save it for actual traitors (Ames, Hanssen), and for a few extreme murder cases (mass murder, kidnap-murder, that sort of thing). But I can’t muster up a mote of outrage over the fact that a guy who killed a thirteen month old girl is going to get a needle in his arm.

    I’ve a thirteen month old little girl. So, forgive me, but I hope it hurts.

  91. TiwazTyrsfist says:

    Wooo! I’m fucking crazy! Therefore, despite my tendency to rip out peoples hearts and deficate in the resulting hole, I should be placed in a minimum security mental hospital instead of being executed for my 400 brutal murders!

    Okay, they guy who ate his own eye is crazy. Does that bring the 5 year old girl back to life? No. I’ve never agreed with the concept that being crazy is a defense.

    People who are dangerous to society should be locked away for the protection of others.

  92. Lookforthewoman says:

    #50 posted by travis08 , March 20, 2009 11:07 AM
    I am not for capital punishment, but if I we are going to allow it, shouldn’t it be the crazy ones that get punished first?

    So to punishment someone for being crazy you want to kill them?

    That’ll teach them rest of them not to be crazy!

  93. Connie H. says:

    This is directed to those who are advocating for the execution of the guilty-by-reason-of-insanity, and/or saying that some/all of these criminals are faking it:

    Do you have any close relatives who are schizophrenic? I’m not asking this to imply you are crazy yourself, but I really have to wonder what your personal experience dealing with the seriously insane has been. Because I have to think if you’ve had to watch a sibling, parent, child or spouse deal with involuntarily altered consciousness, you’d not doubt that someone could really be so insane to commit criminal acts and still deserve judicial mercy.

  94. Takuan says:

    apart from a tiny handful of hopelessly ineducable, I think virtually all Americans agree their country has just emerged from eight years of darkness brought about by a criminal cabal that hijacked the electoral process and simply stole power.

    Since you all know this happened, you must allow it could happen again. Do you then wish to trust the kind of people that may once again gain power over you with the power of life and death as well? How can anyone living in the USA today support ANY level of government having capital punishment in its tool box of coercion? How much whipping do some people need before they take the lesson?

  95. Antinous / Moderator says:

    The topic is the death penalty, not Tortures I’d like to Inflict on Someone I’ve Never Even Met. And please don’t use terminology associated with veterinary practice.

  96. neurolux says:

    Are jurors less likely to convict someone of murder if they think he’ll get the death penalty? I’m specifically talking about “reasonable doubt” as to whether the doubt is reasonable or not. If the jury knows that the maximum sentence is life in prison, wouldn’t they more likely think “I’m pretty sure he’s guilty, but if I’m wrong and new evidence clears him, that’s fine with me. I’ll go ahead and vote guilty.”

  97. KevinC says:

    ‘For me, there comes a point where a person is so far “gone” that I do not recognize him/her as a human anymore.’
    Therein lies the problem – I.

    Furthermore, whether recognizable as a human or not, does this justify an additional homicide? We don’t kill wild bears just because they aren’t human. Life’s value, human or not, can only truly be assessed by the individual. Sans the capacity for self-evaluation, it doesn’t pass that right to another individual.

    All of this aside, the one argument that most of us should be able to agree with is: mistakes are made, innocent people have been put to death before.

    This fact alone should dissuade the use of capital punishment altogether.

  98. GuidoDavid says:

    It’s wonderful that someone still cares about injustice.

  99. Master Mahan says:

    Being eyeball-eating insane is fairly normal in Texas. How else do you think they managed a rate of over 16 executions a year? I have rarely been so proud to live in New Mexico than I have been lately.

  100. mdh says:

    Kill them faster would be my answer, but on the other hand, people are talking quadrillions of dollars in other arenas at the moment, which makes a million seem hardly worth worrying about.

    The difference between crazy and eccentric is about $100,000.

  101. David Newland says:

    I’m not a supporter of state-sanctioned killing, but I find the notion that the death penalty is wrong because people are sometimes wrongfully convicted somewhat of a red herring.

    Yes, that happens – but surely not nearly as often as someone who’s committed murder gets back out on the street and re-offends.

    To the poster who noted that the recidivism rate for murder is “under 30 %” – that certainly doesn’t refute the argument that an executed criminal never re-offends.

    I think the soundest argument against capital punishment is that it makes us all culpable in killing. Even that is hard to defend sometimes, in light of the most heinous of crimes.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Did you really just argue that it’s okay to occasionally kill innocent people in order to make sure to get the criminals?

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