HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A former Dallas accountant condemned for fatally shooting his two young daughters while their mother listened helplessly on the phone was put to death Thursday night in Texas.
John David Battaglia was executed 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 he shot the girls at his Dallas apartment during a scheduled visit.
His lethal injection was the nation’s third this year, all in Texas. The punishment was delayed more than three hours until the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from his lawyers to review his case. They contended the 62-year-old was delusional and mentally incompetent for execution and that a lower court improperly refused Battaglia’s lawyers money to hire an expert to further examine legal claims regarding his mental competency.
Battaglia smiled as the mother of his slain children, Mary Jean Pearle, and other witnesses to his execution 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 them back up 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 the next few seconds, all movement stopped.
The time of death: 9:40 p.m. CST — 22 minutes after the lethal dose began.
Pearle turned away from an execution-viewing window after Battaglia stopped breathing and walked to the back of the witness area.
“I’ve seen enough of him,” she said. She returned several minutes later to watch as a physician examined Battaglia and pronounced him dead. Pearle declined to be interviewed afterward.
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 was competent.