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Texas executes third death row inmate this year

By Danielle Haynes
Texas executes third death row inmate this year
John Battaglia shot and killed his 6-year-old and 9-year-old daughters in 2001 while his ex-wife, their mother, listened on the phone. File Photo courtesy the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Texas carried out its third execution of the year Thursday, that of a Dallas man who shot his daughters to death as their mother listened on the phone in 2001.

John Battaglia, 62, received a lethal injection Thursday night in Huntsville and was pronounced dead at 9:40 p.m.

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According to the Dallas Morning News, Battaglia appeared good-natured before the execution and said hello to his ex-wife, Mary Jean Pearle, who was there to watch his execution.

"Well, hi, Mary Jean. I'll see y'all later. Bye," he said. "Go ahead, please."

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After the lethal injection was administered, Battaglia smiled and said, "Am I still alive?"

Moments later, he said, "Oh, here, I feel it."

It took 22 minutes for Battaglia to die after the injection was given.

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Battaglia was convicted in 2002 for killing his two daughters, 6-year-old Liberty Battaglia and 9-year-old Mary Faith Battaglia. He killed them while speaking on the phone with Pearle, after he learned there was a warrant out for arrest for harassing her.

Pearle said she heard Mary Faith plead for her life: "No, daddy, please don't, don't do it."

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Battaglia has twice had his execution delayed over questions about his mental competency. In 2015, three psychologists testified Battaglia suffers from delusional disorder, in which a victim has strongly believed untrue things. All three said Battaglia was mentally incompetent for execution, but disagreed on the reasons.

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Battaglia's attorneys called for the Supreme Court to halt Thursday's execution, saying the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals misapplied the high court's guidance on competency.

A state judge previously determined Battaglia was faking mental illness in order to avoid execution.

"The defendant is a vengeful, manipulative, cunning and deceitful person with the motive and intellectual capability to maintain a deliberate ploy or ruse to avoid his execution," State District Judge Robert Burns said.

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