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News Briefs

Case of Mentally Retarded Death Row Inmate Goes to High Court


A mentally retarded man on Texas’ death row Monday was granted a hearing from the U.S. Supreme Court on his attorneys’ contention that jurors in his case were not given adequate opportunity to consider his capacity when they deliberated on his sentence.

“I’m very pleased,” said Robert S. Smith, John Paul Penry’s lead lawyer.

The Supreme Court action came on the heels of its Nov. 16 decision to stay Penry’s execution that day while deciding whether to hear the case. Penry has been on death row for 20 years for the rape and murder of 22-year-old Pamela M. Carpenter.

According to documents filed by his lawyers, Penry’s IQ has been measured at various times from a low of 50 up to 63. A measurement of 70 is required for minimal normal intelligence.

This will be the second time that Penry’s case has come before the Supreme Court. The high court overturned his conviction in a 1989 ruling, which held that Texas’ death penalty law did not give jurors an adequate opportunity to hear about Penry’s mental retardation.

At the time, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments of Penry’s attorneys and mental retardation experts that it should categorically bar execution of the mentally retarded as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

G.E. Names Immelt as Chairman


Jeffrey R. Immelt was named Monday to succeed Jack Welch as chairman of General Electric Co. when Welsh steps down at the end of next year.

The selection of Immelt, 44, as the handpicked heir to one of the icons of modern business management ends nearly four years of speculation over Welch’s successor. By the time the official announcement was made Monday morning Immelt had been the odds-on favorite for months.

Immelt has been president and chief executive of GE Medical Systems, a $7 billion-a-year division of GE. It was his appointment to that post in 1997 that pushed Immelt to the forefront of the successor race. Like Welch before him, Immelt is young enough to have an opportunity to reshape one of the world’s most successful corporations.

Welch as been chairman since 1981, boosting GE’s profits from just under $1.6 billion a year to $10.7 billion in 1999.

Supreme Court Prepares to Hear Disputed Presidential Votes Case


As it prepared to receive written arguments Tuesday in its unprecedented review of a presidential election, the Supreme Court Monday reaffirmed a long-held precedent: No television cameras will be allowed in its courtroom when the nine justices hear oral arguments Friday by lawyers for Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

Responding to a request by C-SPAN Chairman Brian Lamb, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said, “A majority of the court remains of the view that we should adhere to our present practice” of banning cameras or audio recording of its proceedings.

Lamb’s request was made before the court’s surprise announcement Friday that it would consider Bush’s appeal of a Florida Supreme Court decision favoring Gore’s position in the controversial recount of some Florida ballots.

Television coverage of the court’s proceedings “would be an immense public service and would help the country understand and accept the outcome of the election,” Lamp wrote Rehnquist.