Does John Battaglia Remember He Murdered His Children?

A father who killed his two 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 two daughters, 9-year-old Faith and 6-year- old Liberty.

The details of the two 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 two 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 – seven in total. Battaglia was arrested outside of a nearby tattoo parlor, where he had gone to get two roses representing his slain daughters tattooed on his arm.

At trial, the state traced a pattern of violence, using testimony from Battaglia's first wife Michelle Ghetti, who told of the two 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 two 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 sixth Texan executed this year, and the 537th since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

death penalty, John Battaglia

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