OUR March issue featured a sobering profile of Andre Thomas, a schizophrenic man on death row for murdering his estranged wife and her two children. The article—which asked the question, How should mentally ill criminals be punished?—prompted several news outlets to respond with frank editorials. Wrote the Huffington Post: “The state of Texas’s desire to kill Andre Thomas shows that we are a long way from where we need to be.” Closer to home, the Dallas Morning News weighed in, saying, “To strap down and terminate the life of such a tortured creature is the way a medieval society would deal with its embarrassments. Texas must be better than that, and the courts should save us from insane ideas of what constitutes justice.”
And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers:
Lance a Lot
Another Lance Armstrong cover? Really, Texas Monthly? We have honorable Texans, like Chris Kyle, who deserve the cover of our state magazine. And we have to look at this disgrace again? It sickens me.
Nikole N. Parker, Via facebook
Without attempting to break down the apparent analysis of Mr. Armstrong, this entire episode in American sports, particularly involving one phenomenal Texan, simply makes me sad. Where have our heroes gone, or is heroism without tragedy yet another Texas-size myth?
Paul Anton Schweizer, Dallas
Even die-hard Lance Armstrong fans must be tired of seeing Lance’s face and listening to that tired ol’ story by now. I know that somewhere in the BIG state of Texas you can come up with someone and/or something more interesting. Please.
Regina Bigler, San Antonio
Was conflicted about the new Lance Armstrong @TexasMonthly cover that came today but . . . it’s actually pretty great.
Dina Gachman, via twitter
Loved reading about @lancearmstrong in @TexasMonthly latest issue. After all he went through, I’d still have a beer with him!
Alex Cuellar, Via Twitter
Who cares? He rides a bike. We all had a bike when we were seven.
John Tull, Via facebook
Who cares? When does the next BBQ issue come out?!
Craig Hall, Via facebook
“Will he ever be redeemed?” You mean, “Will he ever be a marketable celebrity again?”
John Stark, Via facebook
Great booking photo of Lance. Nothing more. A blank cover would have been better. And the article itself is a mere afterthought to a has-been. texas monthly, I suggest you go to your room, think about it, and tell us what you did wrong and that you will not do it again. You were raised better than this.
Jim McLendon, Georgetown
After all the damage Lance has done, I think we should simply ignore him and let him sink into obscurity. Devoting a cover story to him sends the wrong message to the public about how someone can attract attention by doing immoral things.
Matej Tacer, Dallas
After reading Michael Hall’s great piece “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” I have one suggestion for all the people damning Lance Armstrong: if you have never cheated, lied, pressured a peer, or tried to intimidate anyone, then by all means continue your righteous indignation. The rest of you seriously need to recognize your hypocrisy and get a life.
Glen Hines, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Just got done reading your article in the March issue. Very moving. I wear the same band on my wrist given to me at M.D. Anderson on May 17, 2007 (uveal melanoma at 36 years “old”). The last twelve words in the article are all anyone needs. However, I need Livestrong. It is a mind-set. Every person diagnosed needs Livestrong. I look past all Lance’s transgressions. The court of public opinion will take care of that. But Livestrong? Vive le Livestrong!
Marcus O. Perry, The Colony
While I thought your article was well-balanced, I was deeply troubled to see Lance on the cover yet again. I think each of us might want to consider how we as a society are responsible for Lance’s doping. He would not have cheated if our culture didn’t reward winning at all costs. Even now, after it has all come out, he is still incredibly rich and famous. And where are the people whose careers he crushed, people who tried to fight against the doping culture? They live in relative obscurity, because they never won a Tour, because they would have had to cheat to win. And here Lance is on the cover of TM again. What part are we playing in promoting this kind of behavior? Are you mirroring the culture, or perpetuating it and, in a way, rewarding it? Instead of continuing to glorify a cheater, how about showcasing an athlete who has played fairly, even at the cost of not winning everything? That is a cover I would like to see. And until we reward those kinds of athletes, this doping problem will never go away.
Gretchen Otto, Austin
After reading “Trouble in Mind,” I could not help but focus on the power of the last sentence, spoken by Andre Thomas himself, to provide the answer to the entire question posed in the article. He stated, “I know I was convicted. . . . I don’t understand why I was convicted.” The police (and the criminal justice system as a whole) are good at figuring out the who, what, where, when, and how of a crime; this they need to do in order to obtain a conviction. What they are poor at is determining why—why someone commits a crime. Police officers and judges can only speculate. Criminal psychologists and criminologists are no better at understanding why, for their research only suggests limited explanations for a limited number of cases. Since all we can do is answer the behavioral questions, and not the psychological or criminological, it is time our justice system limits its capacity to do just that. If a person exhibits criminal behavior, the individual should be tried for that behavior. If found guilty of the behavior, he should be sentenced in accordance with the law.
Then, if the person appears to be in need of mental health treatment, the system can determine the need and try to provide for that, but only after sentencing. If Andre does not understand why, and the criminal justice professionals do not understand why, and the criminologists do not understand why, then why try to answer that question in a court of law?
Dr. Willard M. Oliver, Huntsville
Brandi Grissom seems to have a negative opinion of the medications that have made it possible for so many mentally ill people to lead productive lives. She refers to them as “powerful,” as if that were a negative quality. In the case of Andre Thomas, they were administered late in the illness and were not powerful enough. She also notes the weight gain, which is hardly an issue compared with pulling one’s eyes out. The Sunday school teacher was right that the community failed Andre. Ms. Grissom missed an opportunity to share what communities are currently doing to save boys like him.
Susie Tharpe Click, Via email
I am thrilled that the Hotel Settles is having a new beginning [“Up With the Old Hotel”]. I will always treasure the memories of being a guest there. When I was a little kid, my mother and I were staying at the hotel the night the war was over. Our room was on a high floor, and we spent the entire night looking out the window to see all the activities that were going on.
Thanks for a great article. Maybe someone will come along and restore the Stockton Hotel, in Fort Stockton, too.
Wilida Wells Leinbach, Via email
The first thing I read when I receive my Texas Monthly is the Texanist. His responses to readers’ inquiries are timely and humorous. In the March issue, the question about the OU license plates in Texas was interesting, and I thought that the Texanist responded with thoughtful analysis. However, it might be pointed out that there are many supporters in Texas who actually favor OU over UT. Not all Texans believe that UT is the university in the Lone Star State. Should I name a few supporters of other universities in Texas?
L. D. Coleman, Houston