Skip to comments.Jury: Penry is not mentally retarded - Murderer sentenced to death
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
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.
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?"
Lots of people believe in Santa Claus. The adult believers are called Democrats.
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