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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Texas: Dad who killed girls has new execution date

John Battaglia
John Battaglia
John Battaglia - the man who murdered his young daughters out of revenge while their mother listened over the phone - has a new execution date.

State District Judge Robert Burns scheduled the execution for Dec. 7.

That doesn't necessarly mean the lethal dose of drugs will be administered inside the state's death chamber in Huntsville. A federal court has ordered a hearing to look into Battaglia's claims of mental incompetency. The execution date had to be set before the hearing could take place.

Battaglia, now 61, was scheduled to be executed in March but won a last-minute stay from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals so his lawyer could pursue the incompetency claims.

No date has been set for the hearing in Burns' court.

Battaglia was sentenced to death for killing Faith, 9, and Liberty, 6, at his Deep Ellum loft in May 2001. He arranged a call with his ex-wife, who listened on the phone as the older girl begged: "No, Daddy! Don't do it!"

He later headed to a nearby tattoo parlor to have 2 red roses etched on his arm in memory of the girls. That night, he recorded a message on their answering machine: "Good night, my little babies. I hope you are resing in a different place. I love you."

Psychiatrists testified for the defense at his trial that Battaglia suffered from bipolar disorder. An adult daughter from his 1st marriage later said he was also diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by manipulative behavior, a hyper-inflated sense of self-importance and lack of empathy.

Christine Womble, an appellate attorney at the Dallas County's district attorney's office, has said she's "confident" of Battaglia's guilt and his competency.

One of Battaglia's attorneys, Gregory Gardner, argued in court documents that Battaglia has long "exhibited bizarre behavior consistent with severe mental illness."

In a 2014 interview with The Dallas Morning News, Battaglia said he was "a little bit in the blank" about what happened to Faith and Liberty.

"I don't feel like I killed them," he said.

He called his daughters his "best little friends," just the "nicest little kids" imaginable, and said he doesn't grieve for them beacuse they remain with him.

"Why would I worry about where they are now?" he asked. "We're all here, we're all gone at the same time. I'm not worried about it."

Source: Dallas Morning News, August 16, 2016

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