DALLAS, April 24 (UPI) -- A Dallas accountant was convicted Wednesday of shooting and killing his two young daughters a year ago as his former wife -- and mother of the children -- listened on the phone.
The jury that convicted John Battaglia, 46, in less than 30 minutes will determine whether he receives a life prison sentence or the death penalty.
Battaglia killed 9-year-old Faith and her 6-year-old sister, Liberty, in his downtown loft May 2, 2001, during a conversation with his former wife Mary Jean Pearle, who was trying to have him jailed for violating his probation.
Pearle, who was the state's key witness, testified earlier in the week that she was listening to her husband on the phone when she heard Faith scream, "No, Daddy, no, don't do it," followed by a series of gunshots.
Medical examiners testified that the girls were shot several times, including contact wounds to the back of the head.
Under a divorce settlement, Battaglia was allowed to have unsupervised visits with the girls each Wednesday, and he killed them during a regular visit.
Prosectuors argued that Battaglia acted out of revenge against his former wife because he knew she wanted police to arrest him for violating his probation from a domestic violence conviction for beating her a year earlier. An arrest warrant was finally served on Battaglia a day after the slaying of the girls.
Battaglia's attorneys did not call any witnesses during the guilt phase of the capital murder trial, but they were expected to present evidence in the punishment phase that their client suffers from a bipolar disorder that produces volcanic rages.
Battaglia has said in the past that he may have inherited mental problems from his mother who was manic-depressive and committed suicide when he was a teenager. He has also said he was outraged about his former wife's attempts to keep him away from his daughters.