Dallas man who killed young daughters ruled competent to be executed

John Battaglia and his two daughters, who he killed in 2001.
John Battaglia and his two daughters, who he killed in 2001. Courtesy of WFAA.

John Battaglia, a Dallas man who killed his two young daughters in 2001 as his ex-wife listened over the phone, is mentally competent to be executed, a judge ruled Friday,

Battaglia, 61, had been in court this week after an appeals court in March granted a stay in his execution to review his competency.

State District Judge Robert Burns’ ruling on Friday upheld Battaglia’s scheduled execution date of Dec. 7.

The former accountant was convicted in the killings of his two daughters, Faith and Liberty, in May 2001. He fatally shot the girls at his Deep Ellum apartment as his ex-wife, Mary Jean Pearl, listened helplessly on the phone.

In a jailhouse interview with WFAA, Battaglia blamed the killings on people he called “demons.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that a prisoner can be executed if he or she is aware that the death penalty is set to be carried out and has a rational understanding of why he or she is facing that punishment.

Three psychologists testified that Battaglia doesn’t understand why he is scheduled to die. A fourth said Battaglia is faking his delusions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.