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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Overturns Death Sentence for the Third Time

From SanDiego.com: Austin, TX (AP)-- "A convicted killer whose case helped spark national debate over whether mentally impaired inmates should be executed had his death sentence overturned for the third time Wednesday.  A divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent Johnny Paul Penry's case back to trial for the punishment phase. The court ruled that jurors in Penry's most recent trial may not have properly considered his claims of mental impairment.

Penry has won two reversals from the U.S. Supreme Court that changed the way judges instruct juries in capital murder cases. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1989 and, in 2001, overturned his sentence but left the conviction intact. Both times the high court reasoned the jury was not allowed to properly weigh Penry's alleged retardation.

For the July 2002 trial that was considered by the Texas appeals court, jurors heard detailed testimony about his intellect. Defense experts noted his IQ consistently tested below 70, the retardation standard, and Penry remained very childlike in his abilities. Prosecutors say his lifelong anti-social behavior prevented him from being able to properly take an IQ test and that he has a life-or-death reason to act unintelligent. The jury determined Penry was not retarded and sentenced him to die. More... [Mark Godsey]

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