Penry v. Lynaugh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Penry v. Lynaugh
Argued January 11, 1989
Decided June 26, 1989
Full case nameJohnny Paul Penry v. Lynaugh, Director of the Texas Department of Corrections
Citations492 U.S. 302 (more)
109 S. Ct. 2934; 106 L. Ed. 2d 256; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 3148
ArgumentOral argument
Case history
PriorWrit of habeas corpus challenging death sentence denied by United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas; affirmed, 832 F.2d 915 (5th Cir. 1987); cert. granted, 487 U.S. 1233 (1988).
SubsequentSubsequent death sentence affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and then the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas; affirmed by the Fifth Circuit, 215 F.3d 504 (5th Cir. 2000); sentence vacated, 532 U.S. 782 (2001).
The Eighth Amendment does not forbid executing the mentally disabled; however, the three "special issues" a Texas jury is required to consider before imposing the death penalty did not adequately allow the jury in Penry's sentencing hearing to consider his alleged mental disability as a mitigating factor.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
Case opinions
MajorityO'Connor, joined by unanimous (Parts I, IV-A); Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Stevens (Parts II-B, III); Rehnquist, White, Scalia, Kennedy (Parts II-A, IV-B)
Concur/dissentBrennan, joined by Marshall
Concur/dissentStevens, joined by Blackmun
Concur/dissentScalia, joined by Rehnquist, White, Kennedy
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. VIII
Overruled by
Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)

Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court case that sanctioned the death penalty for mentally disabled offenders because the Court determined executing the mentally disabled was not "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment.[1] However, because Texas law did not allow the jury to give adequate consideration as a mitigating factor to Johnny Paul Penry's intellectual disability at the sentencing phase of his murder trial, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings. Eventually, Penry was retried for capital murder, again sentenced to death, and again the Supreme Court ruled, in Penry v. Johnson,[2] that the jury was not able to adequately consider Penry's intellectual disability as a mitigating factor at the sentencing phase of the trial. Ultimately, Penry was spared the death penalty because of the Supreme Court's ruling in Atkins v. Virginia,[3] which, while not directly overruling the holding in "Penry I", did give considerable negative treatment to Penry on the basis that the Eighth Amendment allowed execution of mentally disabled people.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The Court ruled that the execution of the mentally retarded does not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

Concurring and dissenting opinions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989).
  2. ^ Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782 (2001).
  3. ^ Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002).

Further reading[edit]

  • Bing, Jonathan L. (1996). "Protecting the Mentally Retarded from Capital Punishment: State Efforts Since Penry and Recommendations for the Future". N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change. 22 (1): 59–151.
  • Hagenah, Patricia (1990). "Imposing the Death Sentence on Mentally Retarded Defendants: The Case of Penry v. Lynaugh". UMKC Law Review. 59 (1): 135–153.

External links[edit]