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Jury: Penry is not mentally retarded - Murderer sentenced to death
Associated Press ^ | July 4, 2002 | Associated Press Staff

Posted on 07/04/2002 9:43:23 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP

Jury: Penry is not mentally retarded

For the third time, man sentenced to die for 1979 rape, murder


Associated Press

CONROE, Texas - A Texas jury Wednesday rejected arguments that convicted rapist and killer Johnny Paul Penry was mentally retarded, and it sentenced him to death.

Mr. Penry, 46, has twice escaped death sentences. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the sentences in 1989 and June 2001.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on June 30 that executing mentally retarded murderers is unconstitutional, so state District Judge Elizabeth Coker told jurors Wednesday that they had to find that Mr. Penry wasn't mentally retarded to impose death.

The decision sets the stage for a series of appeals, which may lead to a constitutionally sound definition of mental retardation for Texas. The Supreme Court left it to the states to come up with a definition of mental retardation.

Mr. Penry has spent half his life in prison, primarily on death row, for killing Pamela Moseley Carpenter in October 1979 at her home in Livingston, 80 miles northeast of Houston.

He was on parole for rape when he was arrested and charged with killing Ms. Carpenter, 22, the sister of former Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley. She was raped and stabbed in the chest with scissors but remained alive long enough to describe her killer.

Ms. Carpenter's niece, Ellen May, said the family expects "a long road" of appeals of the third death sentence, but they were relieved. She said that had the jury sentenced Mr. Penry to life in prison, he may have been released after having served nearly 23 years.

"If he's going to be on death row, he's going to be in prison," she said. "We don't want this to ever happen to anyone again."

Mr. Penry's lawyers argued that he has the mind of a 7-year-old. Prosecutors argued that he was not mentally retarded and should die for Ms. Carpenter's slaying.

Friends and family of Ms. Carpenter gasped and some wept when they heard the verdict Wednesday. Mr. Penry turned to look at them and then twiddled his fingers as Judge Coker ordered him to return to death row.

Before the high court's June ruling, death penalty opponents had pointed to Mr. Penry, who says he believes in Santa Claus and likes coloring books, as a reason why Texas should have prohibited executions of mentally retarded people.

A bill to ban such punishment was approved in the Legislature last year, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it.

John Wright, Mr. Penry's lead attorney since November 1979, said he wasn't allowed to ask potential jurors whether they would follow a law barring execution of the mentally retarded if the high court returned with such a ruling during the trial. Judge Coker denied his request for a mistrial when the ruling was announced.

"This is not the jury that should have made this decision," Mr. Wright said.

Prosecutor Joe Price, who was at the crime scene and has prosecuted Mr. Penry since interviewing him on the day of the slaying, said he believes the judge handled the retardation issue properly and is confident the conviction will stand on appeal.

"We feel like once and for all this is going to end the nightmare for the Moseley family and the Carpenter family," he said.

Texas, the nation's leading death penalty state, is one of 20 states that had no ban on the execution of retarded people before the high court's ruling last month.

Online at:

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: deathpenalty; johnpaulpenry; mentalretardation; murder; texas

1 posted on 07/04/2002 9:43:23 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: All
Knowing Right from Wrong

While Penry made sure no one was coming, Carpenter grabbed the pair of orange-handled scissors she had been using to make Halloween decorations and stabbed them into Penry's back. Penry then knocked the scissors out of her hand and pushed her to the floor. While she was on her way down, Penry whacked Carpenter's head on the stove. As she lay on the kitchen floor, Penry then stomped her with his work boots.

"We verified that later, because she had a perfect heel print on her side where he'd stomped her while she was on her stomach. It ruptured her kidney, and that's what actually killed her."

But Carpenter wasn't dead yet, nor was Penry through. After stomping her, he got down on the floor and raped her.

"Then he got up and went across the room and picked up those damn scissors," says Price. "Came back, sat down on her stomach and said, 'I'm sorry, but I've got to do this.' Said something about he couldn't have her squealing on him. And then he buried the scissors in her chest." That act, says Price, was a clear indication that Penry knew he had done something wrong and that he was in big trouble.

Even then, the notoriously strong-willed Carpenter refused to die.

"He thought that would kill her instantly," says Price, "but she reached up and pulled the goddamn scissors out. When she did that, it scared him and he jumped up and ran out of the house."

Carpenter managed to pull herself across the room to the telephone. First she called a friend, and then an ambulance. At the hospital, emergency room doctors were aware of only the stab wound. They mended the hole in Carpenter's chest and thought they had her stabilized. But when a catheter was inserted, her damaged kidney began hemorrhaging. Pam Carpenter immediately went into shock and died.

2 posted on 07/04/2002 9:48:14 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: MeeknMing
i've been really impressed with the absolute stupidity of New Jersey's carjacker/woman killers during the last 10 years. they're usually caught within days. there was one kid who suffocated a teacher (she recorded the abduction) and asked about the scheduled maintenance on the Camry before he killed her. he thought he would get to keep it??? they don't just waste the victims' lives; they waste their own for a few hours of driving or robbery or rape.

these evil lowlifes check out of civilized society early - they don't value education; they have no imagination to try on consequences. so should they be counted retarded and spared execution? i actually have more sympathy in a way for a clever criminal who takes a victim's life for bigger gains.
3 posted on 07/04/2002 10:02:46 AM PDT by heartwood
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To: MeeknMing
Mr. Penry's lawyers argued that he has the mind of a 7-year-old.

Even a 7 year-old can tell the difference between right and wrong.

How many of the losers are going to try to feign mental retardation? It would be easy to do, don't you think? "Do you know what a gunshot blast can do to a person?" "No, what's a gun?"

4 posted on 07/04/2002 11:09:05 AM PDT by Slyfox
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To: MeeknMing
23 years, and this scum is still breathing! I thought our justice system was supposed the model to the world. What an embarrassment.
5 posted on 07/04/2002 12:26:05 PM PDT by robertpaulsen
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To: MeeknMing
... death penalty opponents had pointed to Mr. Penry, who says he believes in Santa Claus and likes coloring books...

Lots of people believe in Santa Claus. The adult believers are called Democrats.

6 posted on 07/04/2002 3:55:48 PM PDT by curmudgeonII
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To: MeeknMing
A 7 year old may know it's wrong to kill, but he will not be executed for a killing. Why? (Pro/Con)
7 posted on 07/04/2002 8:15:43 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: HiTech RedNeck
That's a tough nut to crack I think. I think it hinges on what our society wants and demands.
I think the stigma attached to killing children for whatever reason would prohibit
that happening. If society decides sometime in the future that it is warranted
then it will happen. Your thoughts?
8 posted on 07/05/2002 6:20:48 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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