Dallas Accountant Faces Execution for Killing Daughters
Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:05

Dallas Accountant Faces Execution for Killing Daughters
• by Jolie McCullough - Texas Tribune
• March 30, 2016

On a May evening in 2001, a Dallas accountant shot and killed his two daughters, 6-year-old Liberty and 9-year-old Mary Faith, while their mother listened over the phone in shock. Now, John David Battaglia faces his own death, as the state of Texas prepares to execute him Wednesday for the crime.

But while preparations begin in Huntsville, Battaglia’s lawyers await the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on their appeal to stop the execution. They argue that lower courts should be given time to determine whether Battaglia is mentally competent to be executed under standards set by an earlier high court ruling.

"His delusions and complete loss of reality prevent him from understanding the connection between his conduct and his pending execution,” his attorney, Greg Gardner said in his filing to the high court. “Instead, Mr. Battaglia believes he will be executed for the actions of others, who conspired in impossible and sometimes undefined ways to falsely convict and execute him.”

About a year and a half before he killed his daughters, Battaglia had beaten his wife, Mary Jean Pearle, during their divorce proceedings and was placed on probation for assault, according to an opinion issued by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. When the divorce was finalized, a protective order was issued prohibiting him from harassing Pearle and their daughters.

Around Easter 2001, Battaglia called Pearle, swearing at her and calling her names, court records show. She reported the call to the police, and a warrant was issued for his arrest for violating the order. He learned about the warrant on May 2, the day he killed his children.

That evening, Pearle dropped off Mary Faith and Liberty with their father for a dinner they had planned, according to the court documents. When Pearle arrived at a friend's house, she discovered she had a missed call from Battaglia. She called back, and he answered on speakerphone, telling 9-year-old Mary Faith to “ask her.”

“Mommy, why do you want Daddy to go to jail?" Mary Faith asked, according to her mother.

Pearle pleaded with Battaglia to stop, then heard her daughter say, “No, daddy, please don't, don't do it."

Next came the gunshots.

Police discovered the girls’ bodies in their father’s apartment, each with several gunshot wounds, the appeals court opinion said. Battaglia was arrested at a tattoo parlor later that night, after getting new tattoos representing his daughters; it took four officers to restrain him.

He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in April 2002. He has lived on Texas’ death row for almost 14 years.

During his trial, multiple forensic psychiatrists testified that Battaglia had bipolar disorder, according to court documents. Since he has been on death row, he has blamed his daughters’ deaths on different conspiracies, with theories ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to his ex-wife and the Dallas County district attorney.

“Mr. Battaglia steadfastly maintained that separate conspiracies murdered his daughters and framed him for their murders,” Gardner said in his latest appeal. “The writings reflect that Mr. Battaglia does not understand his moral culpability in relation to the deaths of his daughters.”

Michael Gross, who has also represented Battaglia, compared his letters to those of another Texas death row inmate, Scott Panetti. In one of Panetti’s appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an inmate cannot be executed unless they are mentally competent enough to understand that they are about to be killed and why.

“Some of the statements Battaglia made were fairly startling,” Gross said of his former client’s letters. “It doesn’t appear that he understands why he’s to be executed.”

Gardner and Gross are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will agree and grant a stay of execution before the scheduled 6 p.m. Wednesday execution. With a stay, Gardner hopes to make the case that Battaglia lacks the competency required to be executed.

“I really don’t see any harm to the state of Texas in allowing Mr. Battaglia to have counsel to assist him to see if he’s incompetent to be executed,” Gardner said. “It’s just trying to make sure the process is fair.”

If carried out, Wednesday’s execution will be the sixth in the state this year, and the tenth in the nation. Eight more are scheduled in Texas through August.

  • Texas death row inmate John Battaglia loses appeal with U.S. Supreme Court Sarah Mervosh - Dallas Morning News Published: January 11, 2016 1:56 pm The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an... more
    • Dallas Accountant Faces Execution for Killing Daughters — Petra., Wed Mar 30 12:05
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