Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: John Battaglia

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A jury found Battaglia guilty of capital murder in April 2002 and sentenced him to death.

"You are one of the most heinous murderers of modern time," The victims' mother said to Battaglia in court after the jury's verdict was announced. "Hitler didn't kill his own children. Dahmer didn't kill his own children." She wished him to "burn in Hell forever."

"I would like to say the next time you see me is when they put the needle in your arm," she said, "But I'm not going to waste the time to be there."

Pearle also vowed to spend her life helping victims of domestic abuse. The Faith and Liberty's Place Family Center was established in the girls' memory, serving as a location for supervised child visitation and custody exchange in cases where one parent has a history of abusive behavior.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Battaglia's conviction and sentence in May 2005. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.

In an interview from Death Row with Dallas Morning News reporter Sarah Mervosh in 2014, Battaglia did not admit killing his daughters, saying he was "a little bit in the blank about what happened."

"A lot of people wanted to have me say certain things," he said. "And I was given lots of nice drugs in the county jail, and I was given lots and lots of information that I didn't necessarily know, and after a while, I started repeating."

Battaglia's feelings about Mary Jean Pearle apparently had not mellowed during his stay in prison. "I had a three-year-old and a one-year-old. And a suicidal mother. So I stuck it out for another five years, and then the piece of [expletive] just turned on me like you wouldn't believe. And she ruined my life, and she ruined my daughters' life, and she ruined my daughter Kristy's life."

Unlike most condemned prisoners, whose thoughts turn spiritual or religious when discussing their upcoming executions, Battaglia was unconcerned. When Mervosh asked whether he worried his daughters are now, he answered, "Why would I worry about where they are now?" He then said, "We're all here, we're all gone at the same time. I'm not worried about it. Nobody should be worried about it."

Battaglia avoided execution twice in 2016. In March, he received a stay on the day he was scheduled to be put to death so that his lawyer could prepare a claim regarding his mental competency.

At his competency hearing, the prosecution presented evidence that Battaglia, who was an accountant and had a master's degree, was faking mental illness to avoid execution. Testimony showed that he used the prison library to research mental competency in death penalty cases and that in a telephone conversation with his father, he described his attempt to avoid execution as a "chess game."

Battaglia received another execution date for December, but he managed to play that game to a stalemate with new questions about his mental competency.

As his third execution date approached, his lawyers once again filed appeals claiming that he was incompetent. "Although he is aware of the state's rationale for his execution, he does not have a rational understanding of it," the appeal stated.

Thursday's execution was delayed for about three hours for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on his appeal.

Battaglia, strapped to the execution gurney, seemed jovial while witnesses arrived to watch. He looked around and asked, "How many people are there? Oh, that's a lot."

He initially declined the opportunity to make a last statement, but when he spotted his ex-wife in the viewing room, he said, "Well, hi, Mary Jean. I'll see y'all later. Bye. Go ahead, please."

Battaglia closed his eyes, and the lethal injection was then started. He lifted his head, looked at the chaplain standing at his feet, smiled, and asked, "Am I still alive?" He then grinned and sighed. "Oh, here, I feel it," he said. He smiled again and closed his eyes.

Pearle leaned in as close as she could to the window separating the witnesses from the death chamber. She watched as Battaglia's breathing grew heavy and then stopped.

"I've seen enough of him," she declared, turning and walking to the back of the room.

He was pronounced dead at 9:40 p.m.


By David Carson. Posted on 2 February 2018. Typographical error corrected on 3 May 2018.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, Huntsville Item, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

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