Texas to Execute Mentally Retarded Man

November 15, 2000

Last night, Texas executed its 36th person of the year. Stacey Lawton, who was 31 years old, was killed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, for killing a man during a Christmas Eve robbery.

The state has two more executions scheduled this week, which would give it a record 38 for the year, the most by any state since U.S. authorities began keeping death penalty records in 1930. Three more executions are scheduled in December.

Tony Chambers is set to be killed tonight, and tomorrow night it will be Johnny Paul Penry, who has an IQ of 54.

Today, we are going to take a look at the case of Johnny Paul Penry. His lawyers say that he is so mentally retarded that he still believes in Santa Claus, and has the reasoning capacity of a seven-year-old. He has been on death row for 20 years, and his life now depends on the US Supreme Court and Texas Governor George W. Bush, after his case was turned down by lower courts and by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.


  • Robert Smith, attorney for Johnny Penry.
  • Patricia Williams, author of the amicus brief filed by several mental health organizations before the US Supreme Court.
  • Stanley Herr, professor at the University of Maryland and co-author of an amicus brief that the American Association on Mental Retardation and eight other organizations filed before the US Supreme Court on behalf of Johnny Penry.


  • Texas Governor George W. Bush, Call: 512.433.2000.