Dallas man executed for killing daughters while mom listened
Huntsville: A former Dallas accountant condemned for fatally shooting his two young daughters while their mother listened helplessly on the phone was put to death in Texas.
John David Battaglia received lethal injection for the May 2001 killings of his 9-year-old daughter, Faith, and her 6-year-old sister, Liberty. Battaglia and his wife had separated and the girls were killed at his Dallas apartment during a scheduled visit.
The punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from his lawyers to review his case, contending Battaglia, 62, was delusional and mentally incompetent for execution.
His was the nation's third execution this year, all in Texas.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in the day rejected an appeal that argued a lower court improperly refused his lawyers money to hire an expert to further examine legal claims of his mental competency.
The Supreme Court has ruled that prisoners can be executed if they're aware the death penalty is to be carried out and have a rational understanding of why they're facing that punishment.
Attorneys for Battaglia contended he didn't have that understanding and that the state's highest court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, misapplied the Supreme Court's guidance when it ruled that Battaglia is competent.
State attorneys said the Texas courts ensured proper legal standards were followed and that Battaglia had been provided expert help and a court hearing in accordance with Supreme Court precedents. Another unsuccessful appeal challenged the effectiveness of the pentobarbital Texas uses as its execution drug.
Attorneys contended the state's supply was outdated and Battaglia was at risk for unconstitutionally cruel punishment.
A state judge and the state appeals court described Battaglia as highly intelligent, competent, not mentally ill and faking mental illness to avoid execution.
Testimony at a hearing showed Battaglia used the prison library to research capital case rulings on mental competence and discussed with his father during a phone call from jail the "chess game" of avoiding execution.
State Judge Robert Burns, who found him competent, said Battaglia's intelligence and education he has a master's degree shows he's not a "typical inmate" and has the "motive and intellectual capability to maintain a deliberate ploy or ruse to avoid his