The Texas execution of John Battaglia, who killed his two daughters in 2001, has been delayed.A former Dallas accountant condemned for fatally shooting his two young daughters while their mother listened helplessly on the phone has been put to death in Texas.
John David Battaglia received a lethal injection for the May 2001 killings of his daughters Faith and Liberty, aged six and nine.
Battaglia and his wife had separated and the girls were killed at his Dallas apartment during a scheduled visit.
Battaglia’s execution was the nation’s third this year, all in Texas. The punishment was carried out after the US Supreme Court rejected appeals from his lawyers to review his case, contending the 62-year-old was delusional and mentally incompetent for execution.
Battaglia smiled on Thursday night as the mother of his slain children, Mary Jean Pearle, walked into the death chamber viewing area.
Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, the inmate replied: “No,” then changed his mind.
“Well, hi, Mary Jean,” he said, looking and smiling at his ex-wife. “I’ll see y’all later. Bye.”
After that, he told the warden: “Go ahead, please.”
Battaglia then closed his eyes and looked directly up. A few seconds later he opened his eyes and lifted his head. “Am I still alive?” he asked.
The powerful sedative pentobarbital began to take effect. “Oh, I feel it,” he said. He gasped twice and started to snore. Within a few more seconds, all movement stopped.
Pearle turned away from an execution-viewing window after Battaglia stopped breathing.
“I’ve seen enough of him,” she said before returning minutes later to watch as a physician examined Battaglia and pronounced him dead.
Earlier in the day, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal that argued a lower court improperly refused Battaglia’s lawyers money to hire an expert to further examine legal claims of his mental competency.
A state judge and the state appeals court described Battaglia as highly intelligent, competent, not mentally ill and faking mental illness to avoid execution.
State Judge Robert Burns said Battaglia’s intelligence and education – he had a master’s degree – showed he had the “motive and intellectual capability to maintain a deliberate ploy or ruse to avoid his execution.”
According to prosecutors, Battaglia became enraged that his estranged wife notified police about his harassment of her.
His wife, who had gone to dinner, returned a call from one of her daughters and heard Faith pleading with her father, who put the call on speakerphone.
“No, daddy, please don’t, don’t do it!” Faith begged.
Pearle yelled into the phone for the children to run, then heard gunshots.
Hours later, Battaglia was arrested outside at a tattoo shop where he had two large red roses inked on his left arm to commemorate his daughters.
Battaglia told The Dallas Morning News in 2014 his daughters were his “best little friends” and that he had photos of them displayed in his prison cell.
“I don’t feel like I killed them,” he said. “I am a little bit in the blank about what happened.”