I HATE to interrupt all this fabulous election fun for business, but they're going to execute Johnny Penry on Thursday. I guess you could say that's a small loss to the world. John Paul Penry never did have much luck, and then he committed a horrible crime. He'd already been convicted of rape when he raped again, and then murdered a lovely young woman from a fine family in Livingston, Texas.
Pamela Mosley Carpenter sang in the church choir. Talk about having your whole life ahead of you -- she was decorating her new home when Penry forced his way in and killed her. It doesn't get a lot worse than that. You know her family will never get over it.
The trouble is, Penry has an IQ of 56 as tested by the University of Texas at Austin, although he has scored as high as 60 and 63 on other tests. Anything below 70 is considered retarded. Basically, he has the mind of a 6-year-old.
Until his trial, nobody had any question about Penry being retarded. He was sent to the Mexia State School at age 12; if he wasn't retarded, why did the state keep him there? When he was 15, they gave him a reading test in which he was supposed to match words with drawings. He chose a door as a dress, a chicken as a drum, and a hat as a flag.
The family history is grim. Penry's father was mostly gone, and when he did see his son, he taunted Penry for being retarded. His mother was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a year after his birth.
According to both of Penry's sisters, his aunt and his neighbors, Penry's mother subjected him to constant abuse and torture. She beat him repeatedly on the head with a heavy belt buckle, locked him away for long periods, forced him to drink his own urine and eat his feces, once scalded him badly in a bath, and threatened to blind him and castrate him. It actually gets worse.
Penry pleaded guilty to a rape at 19 and was paroled after two years of a five-year sentence despite at least one other prior charge. So we knew before he murdered Carpenter that we had a retarded rapist running loose.
Now, you may ask why Child Protective Services never intervened. His mother took him out of school in the first grade -- there was a clue. Hey, it's a low-tax, low-service state. You may ask why we later allowed a retarded rapist to wander around loose. Because it's a low-tax, low-service state.
The prosecution has consistently taken the position that Penry is not retarded but rather a sociopath, and that his family is lying. The case went to the Supreme Court in 1989, resulting in a notorious decision that it is constitutional to execute the retarded as long as the jury is informed of the mental defect. So Penry got a new trial and again got the death penalty.
When Penry was 9, a state psychologist concluded, ``John seems so seriously impaired that he is incapable of intellectually functioning at anything like the age-appropriate level.''
When he was first convicted of rape, a state psychologist found that he was still a bedwetter, his judgment ``severely impaired'' and that he had little regard for others or even himself.
The state of Texas, which failed to help Johnny Penry when he was being tortured and abused by his mentally ill mother, which failed to control him for the safety of others when he became an adult and committed repeated rapes, now feels entitled to take his life.
Somebody should be held responsible for this tragedy, but it's not the man with the IQ of a small child sitting in a cell with his coloring books. The 18 members of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Gov. Bush could spare his life.
I think that the most despicable thing Bill Clinton ever did was to allow the execution of a retarded man while pursuing the presidency in 1992. This is Bush's chance to show that he's made of better stuff and is indeed a ``compassionate'' conservative.
© 2000 The Mercury News