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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Texas: Does John Battaglia Remember He Murdered His Children?

John Battaglia
John Battaglia
A father who killed his 2 young daughters is scheduled to be executed March 30

Texas will wrap up a busy month at the death chamber on Wednesday, March 30, when the state executes 60-year-old John Battaglia for the May 2, 2001, murder of his 2 daughters, 9-year-old Faith and 6-year- old Liberty.

The details of the 2 girls' deaths are particularly disturbing. According to Battaglia's failed 2010 appeal to the U.S. District Court, the murders occurred the day Battaglia learned he had a warrant out for his arrest for violating probation, which he was serving after being convicted of assaulting his ex-wife Mary Jean Pearle in 1999. (Battaglia had agreed not to stalk, threaten, or harass Pearle or their 2 daughters, and Pearle had filed a complaint on April 17 reporting that Battaglia had left an abusive message on her phone.) 

Battaglia picked up Faith and Liberty for a pre-arranged visit that afternoon and took them back to his downtown Dallas loft. Pearle went to a friend's house. When she arrived, she was told the girls wanted to speak with her. She called Battaglia's apartment and he put Faith on the phone. Faith asked, "Mommy, why do you want Daddy to go to jail?" Then Pearle heard Faith say, "No, Daddy, please don't do it." Pearle heard gunshots, then Battaglia screamed "Merry fucking Christmas," and there were more gunshots - 7 in total. Battaglia was arrested outside of a nearby tattoo parlor, where he had gone to get 2 roses representing his slain daughters tattooed on his arm.

At trial, the state traced a pattern of violence, using testimony from Battaglia's 1st wife Michelle Ghetti, who told of the 2 years of physical abuse and harassment she endured while married to Battaglia. The defense offered testimony concerning Battaglia's mental instability, and tried to argue that he would not pose a future threat to society if his life were spared. 

On appeal, Battaglia has continued to pursue - unsuccessfully - those 2 lines of argument. During a 2014 video interview with The Dallas Morning News, Battaglia said he remains "a little in the blank" about what happened to his daughters, and contended: "I don't believe I really killed them."

A last-minute motion to appoint D.C. attorney Gregory W. Gardner as Battaglia's counsel in an effort to file a final claim that Battaglia is too incompetent to be executed - because he neither understands that he murdered his daughters nor that he will soon die for that - was denied by U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle on March 18. 

Battaglia will be the 6th Texan executed this year, and the 537th since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Source: Austin Chronicle, March 24, 2016


Deadly Affection: In killers’ minds, love never left

Even now, John Battaglia portrays himself as a loving father. He pulls up his sleeve to show the tattoo he got in memory of his daughters. He cherishes photos from their time together. He dutifully keeps track of their passing birthdays.

He does it all from death row, where he is confined for their murders.

After Battaglia shot his daughters in 2001, he became a household name to many North Texans who could not understand how any father could do something so unthinkable.

As part of a yearlong “Deadly Affection” series, The Dallas Morning News recently interviewed Battaglia and two other inmates convicted of domestic murders to better understand the mind-sets and motivations of such killers.

Experts say Battaglia likely felt trapped by his own mistakes and feared losing the people he loved most. So he killed them — a perplexing mentality that experts say is common among domestic murderers. Another inmate, struggling with mental problems, strangled his girlfriend. The third shot a longtime boyfriend while high on methamphetamine.

Though their motives were varied and complex, this much is clear: Domestic killers don’t just kill someone they are supposed to love. In their world, the love they feel is real. But so is the hate. The anger. The shame. Those feelings trump all else — even love — because in the minds of domestic killers, no one’s needs are more important than their own.

“His definition of love is tainted,” said Denise Paquette Boots, a criminologist and associate professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “He uses that word, but what does that word really mean to him? It may be a very different definition of what the rest of us associate with love, which is unconditional and not hurting the people you love.”

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Dallas Morning News, December 2014

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