Washington, DC (March 26, 2001) -- The last time the U.S. Supreme Court heard John Paul Penry's death penalty case, in 1989, it sent the case back to Texas and directed the courts there to see that jury instructions allowed for meaningful consideration of Penry's mental retardation and history of childhood abuse as factors mitigating against the death penalty.
Texas eventually passed a statute in compliance with the Court's decision, but not before Penry was retried. Now Penry, and NACDL as amicus curiae, claim that the instruction in the second trial was confusing and required the jury to contradict other instructions in the case in order to conclude that Penry's retardation and other mitigating factors allowed them to not impose the death penalty.
Penry's case will be argued in the Supreme Court for the second time on Tuesday.
"This case shows how important it is to explain to a jury weighing life and death the significant impact of mental retardation on the coping skills of people involved in the criminal justice system," said Edward Chikofsky an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School in New York and co-author of NACDL's amicus brief with Russell Hanser of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.
The Supreme Court's recent stays of cases involving the execution of mentally retarded inmates in Missouri and North Carolina have led to speculation that the Court might address the constitutionality of such executions, even though the issue has not been directly raised in this appeal. In the original Penry case, the Court declined, by a 5-4 ruling, to declare execution of mentally retarded persons unconstitutional, citing a lack of "national consensus" in that only two states had outlawed such executions at the time. Currently 13 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia have laws banning execution of the mentally retarded, while 12 states have no death penalty at all.
Chikofsky can be reached at (212) 289-1062.
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.