John Battaglia, the Dallas man who shot and killed his two daughters on May 2, 2001, will not die next week. His execution, scheduled for Dec. 10, will now occur no earlier than February 2017, thanks to a stay of execution ordered late Friday afternoon by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Friday's ruling will allow the court to further consider claims from Battaglia's attorneys that their client is not competent to be executed. Both the state of Texas and Battaglia's defense team have 60 days to submit briefs arguing whether or not Battaglia knows why he is set to die and that his execution is imminent — Texas' two requirements for death row inmates to receive lethal injection.
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Battaglia shot his daughters eight times in his Deep Ellum loft shortly after his divorce from his wife, Mary Jean Pearle. Pearle, who was on the phone with Battaglia during the murders, was in the midst of an attempt to get Battaglia's probation for assault revoked. Battaglia, who'd abused Pearle throughout their marriage, was harassing her on the phone, she told police.
At a lower court hearing in November, three psychologists who've examined Battaglia testified that he suffers from delusions that make him believe he did not kill his daughters, Mary Faith and Liberty. A fourth psychologist, testifying for the state, said that he believed Battaglia was faking or playing up his symptoms. State District Judge Robert Burns agreed with the fourth psychologist, ruling on Nov. 18 that Battaglia's execution could go forward.
Battaglia's first scheduled execution date was March 30. He received a reprieve from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seven hours before he was scheduled to die when the 5th Circuit agreed with Battaglia that he deserved a court-appointed attorney investigate whether or not he was fit to be executed.