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July 2, 2006

The sad realities of the modern death penalty

The long and winding legal road for Johnny Paul Penry, which has included two stops at the Supreme Court, reflects so many sad realities surrounding the modern application of the death penalty.  This long article in the Dallas Morning News tells the full story, and it starts this way:

Nearly 27 years ago, Johnny Paul Penry shattered the peace of this small East Texas town by brutally raping and killing Pamela Moseley Carpenter in the bright light of morning.  Texas has been trying to put him to death ever since, spending millions of dollars in three different trials. Each time, appellate courts have thwarted the efforts, concerned that juries have not been instructed sufficiently to take Mr. Penry's alleged mental retardation into account....

Through the decades, the stage and the players in this tragedy have irrevocably changed. The victim's family has grown older and disillusioned, or died in despair.  Mr. Penry's once chiseled face has rounded into pasty middle age. Attorneys on both sides say the case has tested their faith in the system....

[T]he Penry case remains a focal point in the death penalty debate.  Advocates cite it as proof of the need for the ultimate punishment; Mr. Penry is a repeat offender, smart enough to plan a savage crime.  Opponents say it exposes the flaws and immorality of execution; Mr. Penry committed an awful act, but his limited mental capacity makes it wrong to kill him....  The two sides agree on one thing: "No matter what ending the story has, it's a sad one," said Ms. Carpenter's niece, Ellen May.

July 2, 2006 at 08:46 AM | Permalink

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