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Death row inmate is allowed an appeal against a conviction for murdering his stepdaughter
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Death row inmate is allowed an appeal against a conviction for murdering his stepdaughter
Andre Thomas, 35, ripped out his remaining eye before eating it in 2009. This was five years after he removed his other eye after being convicted of murdering his estranged wife, son and stepdaughter. He is seen in a mug shot taken after losing both his eyes

Andre Thomas, 35, ripped out his remaining eye before eating it in 2009. This was five years after he removed his other eye after being convicted of murdering his estranged wife, son and stepdaughter. He is seen in a mug shot taken after losing both his eyes

A Texas death row inmate who removed his one remaining eye and ate it has been granted an appeal by the federal court.

Andre Thomas, 35, plucked out the other eye following his 2004 arrest for the murder of his estranged wife, son and stepdaughter.

Attorneys for Thomas will challenge a conviction for murdering his 13-month-old stepdaughter but judges denied them the right to appeal his death penalty conviction on the basis of mental illness, the court decided on Thursday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said the issue of whether executing the severely mentally ill man is unconstitutional was 'foreclosed' as the Supreme Court only prohibits the killing of mentally disabled people, not the mentally ill.

The three-strong panel of judges said they would instead examine claims that Thomas' trial lawyers were deficient and his jury was racially biased.

Thomas stabbed his former wife, Laura Christine Boren, 20, 4-year-old Andre Lee and 13-month-old Leyha Marie Hughes before ripping their hearts out i 2004. 

He then put the organs in his pocket before throwing them in the trash.

 Thomas stabbed his former wife, Laura Christine Boren, 20, 4-year-old Andre Lee and 13-month-old Leyha Marie Hughes (pictured in an undated image) before ripping their hearts out

 Thomas stabbed his former wife, Laura Christine Boren, 20, 4-year-old Andre Lee and 13-month-old Leyha Marie Hughes (pictured in an undated image) before ripping their hearts out

Thomas handed himself in at Sherman Police Department and told officers God had ordered him to commit the murders. 

The killer removed his first eye five days after he was arrested, but was ruled competent for trial and convicted on three counts of murder in 2004.

In 2009, he removed and ate his remaining eye and was transferred to a psychiatric unit.

A federal judge rejected an appeal against his capital punishment conviction on the basis of mental illness in 2016. Thursday's ruling by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals brings that strand of the case to a close. 

In court documents seen by Dallas News, attorney Catherine M.A. Carroll claimed Thomas suffered from delusions resulting from an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. 

Carroll said her client's lawyers at his first jury trial had failed to challenge a judge when he deemed him fit for trial.  

This is the Jester IV Unit a psychiatric facility in Fort Bend where Thomas is currently housed after ripping out his second eye in 2009

This is the Jester IV Unit a psychiatric facility in Fort Bend where Thomas is currently housed after ripping out his second eye in 2009

She also claimed evidence about Thomas' 'long-standing' mental illness and the racial bias of the jury should have been considered. Thomas is black and Boren was white.

'We are grateful to have the opportunity to present the troubling issues in Mr. Thomas' case for fuller adjudication,' Maurie Levin, one of Thomas' attorneys, said. 

'Mr. Thomas, who is currently housed in a psychiatric unit, is an extremely mentally ill man who was sentenced to death following a highly problematic trial and sentencing.' 

State attorneys insisted there was no evidence of Thomas' mental illness within two months of the slayings and that Thomas' drug and alcohol abuse was responsible for his mental problems.