I’m sure many of us who have lived in Texas long enough know about the John Battaglia murders. John murdered his two daughters supposedly out of retaliation against his ex-wife on December 1, 2001. The case went to trial and resulted in him being found guilty of capital murder charges and sentenced to death.
He received his first execution date of March 30, 2016 but the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay so the court could examine his attorneys’ claims that he was not mentally competent to be executed. Now, his present execution date is set for December 7, 2016. On December 2, 2016 another stay of execution was ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, once again delaying his execution.
As with any death penalty case, there are always several appeals filed in order to prevent the person from actually being executed. In this case, his attorneys have always claimed that John suffers from a mental illness. Now, if you remember anything from this case there was something strange that John Battaglia did after murdering his daughters; he went to a tattoo parlor and got two roses tattooed on his arm representing his daughters. If you do not think this is abnormal behavior then I do not know what is.
So let me explain what the court will be relying on to make their decision. There are two cases that were decided by the Supreme Court of the United States with the first one being Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007) and the second being Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986). In Panetti, the court ruled that criminal defendants sentenced to death may not be executed if they do not understand the reason for their imminent execution and once the state has set an execution date, death-row inmates may litigate their competency to be executed in habeas corpus proceedings. So what this means is that Mr. Battaglia needs to understand that he is being executed for the murder of his 2 daughters and not due to any delusions that he may be exhibiting.
In Ford, the Court upheld the common law rule that the insane cannot be executed; therefore the petitioner is entitled to a competency evaluation and an evidentiary hearing in court on the question of their competency to be executed. So merely claiming that you are insane is not enough, you have to show proof. Doctors from both sides have evaluated Mr. Battaglia and each evaluation will be used as proof.
If you have followed the case, you have seen Mr. Battaglia’s bizarre behavior exhibited during his interviews. He blames several people for the death of his daughters by calling them demons and claiming that everyone is out to get him. He does seem like an individual that suffers from some sort of mental illness and it seems to be getting worse with time. It will be interesting to see what the court decides to do, keep a lookout for this case.
Update: John Battaglia was executed February 1, 2018