Johnny Paul Penry
May 5, 1956)
is a Texas Death Row convict who is said to be mentally retarded.
He was sentenced to death on
April 9, 1980
for raping and stabbing 22-year-old Pamela Moseley Carpenter (sister
of American football star Mark Moseley), who died of her wounds,
1979. His lawyer claims that he has the reasoning
capability of a seven-year old. His death sentence has been
overturned three times by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988, 2001,
On February 15, 2008 Penry entered a plea
agreement in which he accepted a sentence of life without parole.
In the plea proceedings, Penry stated that he "is presently, and
at all times relevant to these proceedings, not a person with
mental retardation as that term is defined by the Texas Health and
Safety Code, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR published
by the American Psychiatric Association, and the American
Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (formerly
AAMR)." Penry and his attorneys also ratified the 2002 jury
finding that he was not mentally retarded as well as the 2002
findings of fact and conclusions of law entered by then presiding
judge Elizabeth Coker to the same effect.
Before the crime for which he was sentenced to
death, Penry was sent to prison for five years in 1979 on a rape
conviction. He was paroled two years later.
Texas Attorney General
Monday, November 13, 2000
Johnny Paul Penry Is Scheduled To Be Executed
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn
offers the following information on Johnny Paul Penry who is
scheduled to be executed after 6
p.m., Thursday, November 16th.
Penry was convicted and sentenced to death for
the October 1979 rape and murder of 22-year old Pamela Carpenter,
in Livingston, Texas.
At the time of Pamela Carpenter's rape and
murder, Penry had been on parole less than three months for
another rape he committed in 1977.
Penry first saw Carpenter when he went to her
home in early October with another man to help install new
appliances Carpenter and her husband had purchased. In his
confession to police, Penry admitted to being attracted to
Carpenter when he saw her and that he thought of her often after
seeing her in early October. Penry also admitted to noticing that
Carpenter kept money in her purse, which would later be another
motive he stated for going to Carpenter's house.
On the morning of October 25, 1979, Penry went
to Carpenter's house after seeing a woman that reminded him of
Carpenter. According to his confession, before Penry got to the
door of the home, he opened his pocket knife and placed it in his
back pocket. He then knocked on the door. When Carpenter answered,
Penry asked her if her husband was home. When Carpenter replied
no, Penry asked if he could come in and look at the new stove he
had helped install. When Carpenter refused and told Penry to leave,
he forced himself into her home, held his pocket knife at her side,
and pushed her into the kitchen.
Carpenter began to scream and knocked the knife
out of Penry's hand. Penry and Carpenter then struggled with each
other. In the process, Penry told Carpenter to stop screaming or
he would cut her throat. Carpenter was able to grab a pair of
scissors and stab Penry in the back. The struggle continued as
Penry dragged Carpenter into her bedroom. When Carpenter tried to
get away, Penry tripped her. Penry then ordered Carpenter to take
off her clothes. When she refused, he kicked her two or three
times in the side. Carpenter then took off her clothes and Penry
raped her. After the rape, Penry grabbed the scissors Carpenter
had stabbed him with. He told her that he was going to kill her
because, as Penry said in his confession, he thought "she would
squeal on me." Penry then stabbed Carpenter in the chest. He then
ran out of Carpenter's home.
Pamela Carpenter managed to call a friend to
say that she had been raped and stabbed. Before Carpenter died at
the hospital, she told doctors that she had been stabbed with
scissors and she gave a description of her attacker that matched
Later in the day, police found Penry with two
fresh puncture wounds on his back that appeared to be consistent
with being stabbed by scissors, the murder weapon Carpenter told
doctors Penry had used to stab her. After first lying to police,
saying he got the wounds by falling off his bike, Penry told
police, "I want to get it off my conscience, I done it."
Penry signed two statements confessing to the
rape and murder of Pamela Carpenter.
Puncture wounds found on Penry's back were
consistent with being stabbed by scissors, the murder weapon
Pamela Carpenter told doctors Penry stabbed her with.
Carpenter sustained numerous injuries
including a deep puncture wound to the chest, ruptured kidney,
and numerous cuts and bruises, all of which were consistent with
Penry's account of the violent sexual assault.
The issue of Penry's mental capacity has been
presented to four separate juries and each jury found Penry to
be legally competent to stand trial and/or rejected defenses
based upon Penry's alleged mental retardation.
Penry's mother testified at the first
competency trial for the defense. The basis of her testimony
centered around the fact that Penry had a troubled childhood and
described incidents where Penry abused his siblings. There was
little if any discussion by Penry's mother about his mental
Dr. Kenneth Vogstberger, a board certified
psychiatrist affiliated with Deep East Texas Regional Mental
Health/Mental Retardation services, testified at the first
competency trial that Penry was competent to stand trial and
possessed no serious mental disease or defect. Dr. Vogstberger
also stated that Penry had a good understanding of the nature of
the charges against him and the trial proceedings. Dr.
Vogtsberger also testified that Penry knew the difference
between right and wrong.
Defense expert Dr. Randall Price testified
under cross-examination at Penry's second trial that there had
never been any objective medical evidence that Penry suffers
from any brain damage or impairment. Price also stated that
Penry knows the difference between right and wrong and would be
a dangerous person in the free world.
Dr. Stanton Samenow, a psychologist who
testified during the punishment phase of Penry's second trial,
stated that Penry is aggressive, violent and dangerous. He also
testified that Penry's history of anti-social criminal behavior
showed that he possessed an ability to scheme, plan, and be
March 1980 - Penry found legally competent to
April 1980 - Penry is convicted and sentenced
January 1985 - Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals affirmed Penry's conviction and sentence.
January 1986 - U.S. Supreme Court denied
May 1986 - Court of Criminal Appeals denied
state habeas relief.
April 1987 - United States District Court for
the Eastern District of Texas denied federal habeas relief.
November 1987 - Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals affirmed the District Court's decision to deny habeas
June 1989 - U.S. Supreme Court reversed the
Fifth Circuit's decision and ordered a new trial so that a jury
could consider Penry's mitigation evidence during deliberations
May 1990 - Penry found legally competent to
stand trial. (Second time)
July 1990 - Penry retried in Walker County
and found guilty.
February 22, 1995 - Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed the July 1990 conviction.
November 13, 1995 - U.S. Supreme Court denied
December 3, 1997 - Court of Criminal Appeals
denied Penry's application for state habeas relief.
March 30, 1999 - Federal district court
denied relief and denied permission to appeal based on Penry's
petition for federal habeas relief.
June 20, 2000 - Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals denied permission to appeal.
July 25, 2000 - Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals denied rehearing.
Penry's writ of certiorari is pending with
the U.S. Supreme Court. His clemency petition is also pending
before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
In February 1977, Penry raped Diana Koch in
Livingston, Texas. Koch testified that as she was getting out of
her car to enter a department store in downtown Livingston,
Penry forced his way into her car. Penry told Koch that his
brother had been in an accident and asked her to take him to the
accident scene down the road. Koch, although hesitant, began to
drive down the road. As they drove, Koch became worried and
reached down to use the CB radio in her car. When she did so,
she saw that the wires had been cut. Penry then put a knife to
Koch's ribs, pulled her head back by her hair and told her to
keep driving. Penry then forced Koch to drive off the road in a
remote area and forced her to take off her clothes at knife
point. Penry then raped Koch.
After raping her, Penry tried to drive off,
but the car got stuck on a dirt road, forcing Penry and Koch to
walk. As they walked, Penry kept the knife at Koch's side. A
pickup approached them and Penry told the driver "my wife and I
need a ride." Penry and Koch then climbed into the back of the
When the driver of the truck stopped at a
small store, Koch began screaming for help. Penry tried to
persuade people looking, that his "wife" was "throwing a tantrum."
Koch kept screaming, which led two men to hold a gun on Penry
until sheriffs arrived at the scene. Penry later pled guilty to
raping Koch. He received a five year prison sentence, of which
he served about half before being released on parole in August
of 1979. He was on parole for less than three months before he
raped and killed Pamela Carpenter.
At Penry's second trial, several prison
guards at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville testified about incidents
where Penry beat up and threatened other inmates and guards with
various homemade prison weapons. They also testified about Penry
having an aggressive and violent reputation among inmates and
After the jury returned its verdict in
Penry's first trial, Penry had to be restrained when he
attempted to physically attack the prosecutor.
Johnny Paul Penry