On April 21, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama vacated Kenneth Glenn Thomas’s death sentence. In a 126-page court opinion, the court found that Kenneth was intellectually disabled and ordered that the circuit court resentence him to a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Attorneys from Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (now Dentons) volunteered to represent Kenneth in his post-conviction proceedings and were able to demonstrate the profound deficiencies in Kenneth’s intellect and adaptive functioning. With an IQ of 56 at 9 years old, Kenneth spent his school years in special education classes. He was described as being less mature than persons of his own age, gullible, and easily influenced by others. As a child, Kenneth lacked the ability to complete basic household chores such as using a vacuum cleaner or washing and drying dishes. As a young adult, he was unable to write checks, often relying on strangers to fill them out for him.
Kenneth was the third of nine children, and his family was so socially and economically deprived that “even the poor people called them dirt poor.” He changed homes frequently, living with his parents, foster parents, his mother, and acquaintances in Alabama and Texas. Kenneth was exposed to alcoholism, criminal activity, and domestic violence at a young age. His family was often unable to provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter. Kenneth’s father taught him how to steal and engage in other illegal activities. He would often take Kenneth with him to commit theft and arson.
One year after the district court issued its opinion, the decision was affirmed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the second such case in two years for an Alabama death row prisoner.