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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A judge is expected to rule today on whether or not convicted killer John Battaglia is mentally competent enough to be executed. Battaglia is the North Texas father who killed his two young daughters 15 years ago while their mother, his ex-wife, listened helplessly on the phone.
State District Judge Robert Burns heard two days of conflicting psychological opinions as to whether Battaglia suffers from mental illness or if he’s faking it.
Three psychologists testified that Battaglia is delusional and should not be executed. But another told the judge the 61-year-old is putting on an act and had been fully cooperative when he needed to be.
Former Dallas County prosecutor Toby Shook says Judge Burns has worked as a prosecutor and a defense lawyer and he believes the judge knows how to weigh both sides.
As far as the information presented to the court, Shook thinks the state may have the inside edge. “One expert gave testimony that he believes he’s malingering, that he’s faking mental illness. Also, the state produced evidence that the defendant had looked up how to become incompetent.”
It was 2001 when Battaglia shot and killed Faith and Liberty, his 9- and 6-year-old daughters, in his Deep Ellum apartment. He had picked up the children from his ex-wife in the parking lot of a shopping center for a court-ordered and scheduled visit. Battaglia was under a court order to stay away from his ex-wife’s Highland Park home.
Not long after the girls were given to Battaglia, he got his former wife, Mary Jean Pearle, on the phone. “Why do you want daddy to go to jail,” one of the girls reportedly said to Pearle over the phone. Seconds later, Pearle heard one of the children say “No, no, daddy,” then gunshots.
As it stands, Battaaglia’s facing a December execution date. But no matter the judge’s decision, Shook doesn’t think the case will end today. “It will certainly be appealed if he [Judge Burns] says move forward and there’s no way the execution date would happen on December 7.”
A decision was expected by the lunch hour, but as of 1:15 p.m. the judge still had handed down his ruling.
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