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, on the day of his scheduled execution, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted him a stay.
John Battaglia’s latest appeal in federal court asked for a stay of execution and for counsel to be appointed to argue whether he is mentally competent to be executed under standards set by an earlier high court ruling. The state will not appeal the stay, according to the attorney general’s office.
"Battaglia effectively lacked counsel to prepare his claim of incompetency,” the court said in its ruling. "In our view, it would be improper to approve his execution before his newly appointed counsel has time to develop [this claim.] A stay is needed to make Battaglia’s right to counsel meaningful."
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.