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Answer Penry v. Lynaugh and Penry v. Johnson

In Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 US 302 (1989), Penry, a mentally retarded man, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by the jury in a Texas court. During the trial, the defendant raised an insanity plea, claiming he had organic brain damage as a result of childhood abuse and was moderately mentally retarded. The jury rejected this defense and sentenced him to death.

Penry's attorney challenged the sentence as an 8th Amendment violation of the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, but the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the death sentence.

The US Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari on the case and decided that, while execution of the mentally retarded did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, the judge, in the Penalty phase of Penry's trial, provided the jury inadequate instruction for considering "special circumstances," so the sentencing phase was unfair.

The Court reversed the sentence and remanded back to the 5th Circuit for retrial.

In the second trial, in 1990, the prosecution cited evidence from the first trial of a report prepared at the request of Penry's former counsel, in which his former psychiatrist said he would be a danger to society if released.

When the case was submitted to the jury, the trial judge instructed them to determine Penry's sentence by answering the same special issues in the original Penry case. The trial judge also gave supplemental instruction on mitigating evidence. Penry was again sentenced to death on the basis of their answers to the judge's "special circumstances" issue.

The second trial was appealed through the 5th Circuit under the argument that introduction of the priveledged information from Penry's psychiatriast constituted a 5th Amendment prohibition against self-incrimination. His attorney, again, raised the 8th Amendment issue.

In Penry v. Johnson, 532 US 782 (2001), the Supreme Court again affirmed the lower court ruling that capital punishment for the mentally retarded was not an instance of "cruel and unusual punishment," and also affirmed the ruling that introducing the psychiatrist's report did not violate the defendant's Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination; however, the high court again found the jury instructions on "special circumstances" inadequate, and again remanded the case to the 5th Circuit. In 2001, The Supreme Court believed capital punishment for the mentally retarded was acceptable under the Eighth Amendment.

This attitude changed in 2002, when the Court reversed its opinion in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 US 304 (2002), and determined it had an obligation to declare execution of the mentally retarded cruel and unusual punishment because of a shift in attitude among the public and state legislatures since the original Penry case in 1989.

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Q: What was the main outcome of the US Supreme Court case Penry v. Lynaugh?
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