Supreme Court to decide fate of mentally challenged man

By on April 6, 2001

It has been said by many that Texas is `execution happy,’ having served the death penalty to more people than any other state. However, on March 27, the Supreme Court decided to hear the plea bargain of a mentally incapacitated man sentenced to death in his home state of Texas.
Johnny Paul Penry, an man with an IQ between 50 and 63, was convicted in 1990 of the 1979 rape and murder of Pamela Carpenter, then 22 years old. The law legally defines intelligence at an IQ of 70.
The Supreme Court has decided to make the decision on whether or not the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment for a legally retarded man. Penry’s attorney Robert Smith, is arguing that his client has the mental age of seven and was not fully aware of the legal actions brought against him.
Penry is also known to have suffered from mental and physical abuse during his childhood and was sent to a state school for the mentally retarded. Smith is trying to get Penry’s sentence downgraded to life in prison.
While Penry has been convicted of a horrible crime, it is unnecessary to punish this man by death. As mentioned, Penry has a mental age of seven. If a seven year old murdered someone, he would not be put to death.
If Penry is only vaguely aware of what is happening to him, then his sentence should be considered cruel and unusual punishment, because there is no reason to kill someone who does not understand why they are being killed.
He should not be let got to wander the streets, but it is questionable whether life in prison is the answer either. It is possible that Penry might be better suited spending the rest of his life in a state-run center for the mentally insane.
It would be interesting to hear what the families and friends of Carpenter have to say about Penry and his case proceedings.
Do they want to see their loved one’s rapist and murderer put to death, or do they understand that he committed those atrocities because of his lack of intelligence and maturity?
Texas and its former governor, George W. Bush, have come under fire from journalists, civil rights activists and the general public for the number of people that have been executed in comparison with other states.
Executing a mentally retarded man who is partially aware of his legal surroundings would not be a smart move for the state.
The law is supposed to treat every person fairly and equally, yet there are exceptions to every rule and Penry is that exception. Executing him is cruel and unusual punishment and hopefully the Supreme Court will agree.


About Sarah Netter- Political Opinio