Texas to execute John Battaglia for 2001 murder of daughters

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A man who killed his two young daughters at his Dallas apartment in 2001 while the girls' mother heard the fatal gunshots and her children's screams on the telephone, had his planned execution on Thursday delayed as courts considered last-minute appeals.

John Battaglia, 62, a former accountant, had been set to be put to death by lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville at 6 p.m. (0000 GMT). It would be the third execution this year in the United States, all in Texas.

Lawyers for Battaglia launched appeals with federal courts to spare his life, arguing he suffers from severe mental illness and his "perception of reality may be so distorted that he is incompetent to be executed."

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Alabama

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Indiana

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They said three experts who examined him found he has "delusional disorder of the persecutory type," and was mentally incompetent for execution.

Lawyers for Texas contend Battaglia understands what he has done, is competent to be executed and used his intelligence to deceive the experts.

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

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

According to court documents, shortly before Battaglia was scheduled to host his daughters for a regular dinner, a police officer informed him by phone he needed to surrender for violating his probation.

The officer asked him to turn himself in so that police would not have to take him into custody while he was with his daughters, court documents showed.

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After the girls arrived at his apartment, 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 dead daughters, the documents showed.

It took a jury about 20 minutes to convict him.

RELATED: The most violent states by homicide ranking revealed

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Hawaii: no data

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1. Least homicidal - New Hampshire

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 1.23
2015: 0.96

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2. Rhode Island

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.24
2015: 0.99

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3. Maine

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: no data
2015: 1.14

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4. Massachusetts

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.18
2015: 1.26

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5. Utah

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 1.64
2015: 1.29

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6. Idaho

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 1.14
2015: 1.29

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7. Iowa

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 1.44
2015: 1.62

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8. North Dakota

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: no data
2015: 1.69

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9. Vermont

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.35
2015: 1.76

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10. Minnesota

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 1.45
2015: 1.77

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11. South Dakota

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: no data
2015: 1.97

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12. New York

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 9.57
2015: 2.07

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13. Wyoming

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.27
2015: 2.16

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14. Montana

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.52
2015: 2.17

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15. Washington

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.39
2015: 2.32

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16. Oregon

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 1.96
2015: 2.35

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17. Connecticut

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 3.63
2015: 2.43

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18. Colorado

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.94
2015: 2.46

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19. Nebraska

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 1.93
2015: 2.67

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20. West Virginia

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 4.62
2015: 2.89

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21. Wisconsin

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.75
2015: 3.18

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22. New Jersey

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.84
2015: 3.22

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23. Virginia

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 5.54
2015: 3.29

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24. Kansas

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 3.81
2015: 3.35

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25. California

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 8.74
2015: 3.52

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49. Louisiana

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 13.49
2015: 9.96

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26. Arizona

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 5.57
2015: 3.56

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27. Kentucky

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 4.59
2015: 3.96

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28. Texas

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 10.43
2015: 4.04

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29. Pennsylvania

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 3.88
2015: 4.34

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30. Ohio

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 3.89
2015: 4.38

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31. Nevada

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 7.15
2015: 4.49

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32. North Carolina

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 8.25
2015: 4.54

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33. Indiana

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 4.16
2015: 4.61

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34. Florida

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 7.35
2015: 4.66

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35. Michigan

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 7.95
2015: 4.74

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36. New Mexico

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 5.34
2015: 4.79

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37. Alaska

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.84
2015: 5.22

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38. Arkansas

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 8.48
2015: 5.34

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39. Illinois

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 7.91
2015: 5.45

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40. Tennessee

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 7.69
2015: 5.71

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41. Georgia

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 9.01
2015: 5.73

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42. Oklahoma

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 4.90
2015: 5.87

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43. Delaware

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 2.15
2015: 6.12

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44. South Carolina

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 7.34
2015: 7.55

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45. Maryland

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 8.07
2015: 7.69

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46. Alabama

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 9.90
2015: 8.43

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47. Missouri

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 7.54
2015: 7.92

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48. Mississippi

Firearm-homicide rate: 
1991: 10.33
2015: 9.11

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(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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