Ruling that jurors in the most recent retrial of Johnny Paul Penry may not have properly considered his claims of mental impairment, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent Penry’s case back for re-sentencing. The Texas court’s decision marks the third time that Penry’s death sentence has been overturned during the past 16 years. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned his capital conviction in 1989 in Penry v. Lynaugh, a decision upholding the execution of defendants with mental retardation, but striking down the way that Texas courts considered this issue. Penry was again sentenced to death, but in 2001 the Supreme Court threw out Penry’s new death sentence because the jury was still not properly instructed about mental retardation. In 2002, as the Supreme Court was handing down its decision that the mentally retarded are exempted from the death penalty (Atkins v. Virginia), a trial court sentenced Penry to death for a third time. The recent Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision overturned this third sentence because the jury may not have understood that it could consider mental impairments beyond mental retardation as mitigating evidence. Penry was convicted of the 1979 rape and murder of Pamela Moseley Carpenter in East Texas. Defense experts have consistently noted that Penry’s IQ is below 70, one indicia for those considered to be mentally retarded, and experts state that Penry remains very childlike in his abilities.

(Houston Chronicle, October 5, 2005). See Mental Retardation. Read the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision.