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Family seeks clemency for condemned US man

December 9, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The sister of a death row inmate is asking Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to commute the sentence to life in prison, calling execution an unjust penalty for a man with the mental capabilities of a child.

Paul Goodwin, 48, is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. (0601 GMT) Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He used a hammer to kill Joan Crotts, a 63-year-old widow, in St. Louis County in 1998.

An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and a clemency petition both claim that Goodwin has an IQ of 73. His sister, Mary Mifflin, wrote in a statement that her brother remains child-like, even in prison. She said the death penalty “is not a just punishment for his crime — an act that occurred out of passion, not premeditation, by a man with the mental capabilities of a child, not an adult.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s office respond to the Supreme Court petition by citing testimony at Goodwin’s trial, where a psychologist testified that Goodwin’s IQ is low, but not low enough to be considered mentally disabled.

Goodman received special education as a child but still failed several grades, Mifflin wrote. He relied on relatives and his girlfriend to help with such tasks as buying groceries or paying bills, she said.

When the girlfriend died, Goodwin wasn’t capable of handling the grief and turned to alcohol, which was a factor in his attack on Crotts, Mifflin wrote.

Goodwin is sorry for the crime, attorney Jennifer Herndon said.

“From the beginning he’s said, ‘This is horrible.’ But he’s so impaired he doesn’t really have the ability to show remorse like a normal adult would show,” she said.

But Crotts’ daughter, Debbie Decker, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Goodwin deserves no mercy.

In the mid-1990s, Goodwin lived in a St. Louis County boarding house that was next door to Crotts’ home. The two had been involved in several verbal confrontations.

Goodwin was evicted in 1996 after he and friends harassed Crotts, including throwing beer cans into her yard. Court records show that Goodwin blamed Crotts for his eviction, telling her, “I’m going to get you for this,” according to trial testimony.

On March 1, 1998, Goodwin entered Crotts’ home and confronted her. After a sexual assault, he pushed her down the basement stairs before striking her head several times with a hammer. She died at a hospital. He admitted the crime after his arrest.

A separate appeal to the Supreme Court raises concerns about Missouri’s use of an execution drug purchased from an undisclosed compounding pharmacy. The state’s response notes that the high court has already denied similar petitions in previous executions.

The execution would be the 10th in Missouri this year — the most ever. It would also tie Texas for the most executions in any state in 2014. Texas, Missouri and Florida have combined for 27 of the 33 executions in the U.S. this year.

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