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Tennard v. Dretke

Supreme Court of the United States

March 22, 2004, Argued ; June 24, 2004, Decided

No. 02-10038

Opinion

 [*276]   [**2565]  Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.

LEdHN[1A][] [1A] LEdHN[2A][] [2A] In Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302, 106 L. Ed. 2d 256, 109 S. Ct. 2934 (1989) (Penry I), we held that the Texas capital sentencing scheme provided a constitutionally inadequate vehicle for jurors to consider and give effect to the mitigating evidence of mental retardation and childhood abuse the petitioner had presented.  The petitioner in this case argues that the same scheme was inadequate for jurors to give effect to his evidence of low intelligence. The Texas courts rejected his claim, and a Federal District Court denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.  We [****6]  conclude that "reasonable jurists would find the district court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong," Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484, 146 L. Ed. 2d 542, 120 S. Ct. 1595 (2000), and therefore hold that a certificate of appealability should have issued.

Petitioner Robert Tennard was convicted by a jury of capital murder in October 1986. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Tennard and two accomplices killed two of his neighbors and robbed their house. Tennard himself stabbed one of the victims to death, and one of the [**2566]  accomplices killed the other victim with a hatchet.

 [*277]  During the penalty phase of the trial, defense counsel called only one witness--Tennard's parole officer--who testified that Tennard's Department of Corrections record from a prior incarceration indicated that he had an IQ of 67. App. 28-29. He testified that the IQ test would have been administered as a matter of course. Ibid. The report, which indicated that Tennard was 17 years old at the time it was prepared, was admitted into evidence. On cross-examination, the parole officer testified that he did not know who had administered the test. Id., at 30. The government introduced [****7]  evidence in the penalty phase regarding a prior conviction for rape, committed when Tennard was 16. The rape victim testified that she had escaped through a window after Tennard  [***391]  permitted her to go to the bathroom to take a bath, promising him she would not run away. Id., at 16-17.

The jury was instructed to consider the appropriate punishment by answering the two "special issues" used at the time in Texas to establish whether a sentence of life imprisonment or death would be imposed:

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542 U.S. 274 *; 124 S. Ct. 2562 **; 159 L. Ed. 2d 384 ***; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 4575 ****; 72 U.S.L.W. 4540; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 420

ROBERT JAMES TENNARD, Petitioner v. DOUG DRETKE, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS DIVISION

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

Tennard v. Cockrell, 317 F.3d 476, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 79 (5th Cir. Tex., 2003)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

special issue, sentence, mentally retarded, mitigating evidence, low iq, mitigating, jurists, severe, low intelligence, effective, deliberateness, plurality, culpability, score, constitutional claim, future dangerousness, district court, circumstances, functioning, permanent, relevant mitigating evidence, criminal act, certificate, answering, probable, screened, cases, nexus

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Imposition of Sentence, Allocution, Civil Procedure, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, General Overview, Capital Punishment, Cruel & Unusual Punishment, Mitigating Circumstances, Evidence, Habeas Corpus, Appeals, Certificate of Appealability, Jurisdiction, Cognizable Issues, Threshold Requirements, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Procedure, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Particular Instructions, Use of Particular Evidence, Aggravating Circumstances, Evidence, Relevance, Relevant Evidence, Preservation of Relevant Evidence, Exclusion & Preservation by Prosecutors, Intellectual Disabilities