US court halts execution of Texas man who killed his daughters

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Dallas Man Set To Be Executed For Killing Daughters

A U.S. appeals court halted the execution planned for Wednesday of a Texas a man who killed his two daughters at his Dallas apartment while the girls' mother listened on the phone, hearing the gunshots and her children's screams.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said a counsel for death row inmate, John Battaglia, 60, had abandoned him for part of his appeal process and the offender should have his execution halted as a result.

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The move came hours before Battaglia was set to receive a lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville.

Battaglia's lawyers also launched last-minute appeals on other grounds, arguing he should be spared because he suffers from bipolar disorder, which was not properly considered in sentencing.

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US court halts execution of Texas man who killed his daughters
Seated on his bunk in the death cell of Iberia Parish Courthouse, convinced that 'The Lord is Still with Me,' is Willie Francis, a 17-year-old who won a million-to-one chance of a reprieve from death when the electric chair failed to kill him, or even hurt him, at his scheduled execution on May 3. Sentenced to die for the murder of a St. Martinville druggist a year ago, Francis was strapped in the chair. The current was applied. The doomed man squirmed and jumped. But when the current was shut off, he was unharmed. 'It tickled a little,' he said. The state will try again to carry out the execution on Thursday May 9th.

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This is John Wayne Gacy's police arrest photo from Dec. 21, 1978. Following intensive research, investigation and surveillance, Gacy was arrested by the Des Plaines (Ill.) Police Department on Thursday, Dec. 21, 1978. After being charged with and serving time for 33 murders, Gacy was executed in 1994 by lethal injection. Today, Monday, Nov. 23, 1998, technicians began preliminary work on a possible excavation at an apartment building on Chicago's Northwest Side in search of as many as four more possible victims of the mass murderer. The apartment building at one time, was the home of Gacy's mother, and Gacy had done some construction work there. The information regarding the location was recently released from a retired Chicago police officer who said he had seen Gacy carrying a shovel near the area at about 3 a.m. one day in 1975. The former officer reportedly thought little of the Gacy sighting until three years later, when Gacy was charged with 33 murders. The apartment building is about four miles away from Gacy's house.

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Gary Gilmore, responsible for the shooting deaths of two men, was executed in Utah on January 17, 1977.

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Media witnesses to the firing squad execution of John Albert Taylor examine the chair in which Taylor sat as he was shot to death at 12:03 a.m. Mountain time January 26 at the Unita State Penitentiary in Utah. The execution of Taylor was the first by firing squad in the United States since the 1977 execution of Gary Gilmore in Utah.

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Stanley 'Tookie Williams' was responsible for several murders and other crimes and was executed in California on December 13, 2005. Williams helped found the Crips gang, but was later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-gang efforts. He authored such books as 'Life in Prison,' encouraging kids to stay out of gangs, and his memoir 'Blue Rage, Black Redemption'.'

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Teresa Lewis, convicted of murdering her husband and stepson, was executed in Virginia on September 23, 2010. She was the first woman executed in the state in nearly 100 years.

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William Bonin (left), a 33-year-old truck driver and registered sex offender, was accused of the 'torture' murders of at least 13 and possibly 21 young males, suspected victims of the so called 'Freeway Killer. He was executed in California on February 23, 1996.

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, responsible for Boston Marathon bombing, was sentenced to death on May 15, 2015.

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Joseph E. Duncan III, a convicted murderer and sex offender, was sentenced to death on August 27, 2008.

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Coy Wesbrook was executed in 2016. He fatally shot five people in 1997 with a hunting rifle in a killing spree launched when he found his ex-wife having sex with other men.

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Dylann Roof, the man convicted of murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston was condemned to death by a federal jury on January 10, 2017.

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Death row inmate Ricky Gray is shown in this undated photo released in Washington, DC, U.S. in 2016. Virginia Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Christopher Wilkins, 48, Texas death row inmate convicted of killing two people in a revenge plot after one had tricked him in a $20 drug deal, is shown in this undated photo in Huntsville, Texas, U.S.. Courtesy Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
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"Mr. Battaglia has presented evidence. . .that his delusions make him not understand the reasoning behind his execution," they said in a U.S. Supreme Court filing.

The appeals court also said an attorney who should have represented Battaglia in state mental competency hearings did not.

Battaglia had a history of beating women and been divorced from his wife, Mary Jean Pearl, for about a year when he fatally shot their two daughters, Mary Faith, 9 years old, and Liberty, 6, in May 2001, prosecutors said.

At the time of the shooting, Pearl was seeking to have him arrested for violating a protective order by threatening her.

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When he had the children, he knew a warrant had been issued for his arrest, with an officer asking him to turn himself in peacefully so police did not have to take him into custody while he was with his daughters, court documents showed.

He left a message on his wife's phone. When she called back, he put the phone on speaker and demanded that his wife speak with daughter Mary Faith.

The daughter then asked: "Mommy, why do you want Daddy to go to jail?" and could be heard a few seconds later saying: "No, Daddy, please don't, don't do it."

Then the mother heard gunshots and screams. Battaglia shouted an obscenity at her on the phone, the documents showed.

Pearl called 911 and police found the dead girls in Battaglia's apartment. Both had been shot multiple times.

After the shooting, Battaglia went to a bar with his girlfriend and was arrested shortly afterward at a tattoo parlor where he was getting rose tattoos to remember his daughters, the documents showed.

It took a jury about 20 minutes to convict him.

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