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October 5, 2005

Another amazing Penry chapter

Thanks to this post at How Appealing, I see the amazing news, reported in this AP story, that "Johnny Paul Penry, whose case helped spark national debate over whether mentally impaired inmates could be executed, had his death sentence overturned today for the third time."  This latest decision from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (majority here, dissents here and here), concludes

that there is a reasonable likelihood that the jury believed that it was not permitted to consider mental impairment outside of determining whether the appellant is mentally retarded. As a result, the instructions in this case fell short of the constitutional requirement that the jury be provided a vehicle to give effect to its reasoned moral response to the appellant's mitigating circumstances.

Spurred by this latest development, I cannot help but speculate how much time and money the state of Texas has spent over the last quarter century trying to end the life of Johnny Paul Penry.  His case has gone all the way up to the Supreme Court twice, and now three different death sentences have been overturned.  I also wonder whether Texas will try again, especially since it should realize that further appeals of a fourth death sentence would be inevitable because of constitutional uncertainty that surrounds the application of Atkins and its bar on the execution of persons with mental retardation.

October 5, 2005 at 05:13 PM | Permalink


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