- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

DALLAS John David Battaglia, who shot his two young daughters to death as he talked to his estranged wife on the phone last May 2, was sentenced to death last night in a Dallas courtroom.
Battaglia showed no emotion as the jury returned after some six hours of deliberation in the sentencing phase of the trial. Last week, the same jury had taken only 19 minutes to find him guilty.
Battaglia had his two daughters, Faith, 9, and Liberty, 6, with him at his east Dallas apartment when he phoned his wife and gave her an obscenity-laced Christmas greeting. She then heard the girls scream then gunshots.
There was little doubt he would be convicted. He was arrested quickly at a nearby tattoo parlor and evidence at the scene was voluminous, but some thought the jury might give him a life sentence.
Under Texas law in a capital case, the jury deals with "special questions" whether or not it is likely the suspect will commit violent crimes again and if extenuating circumstances merit the lesser penalty.
In closing arguments yesterday, prosecutors said the accountant deserved to die.
"He is a person who justifies the death penalty," said prosecutor Howard Blackman, "for what he has done over and over in his life, culminating in the slaughter of these precious angels."
The defense argued that because Battaglia suffered from a bipolar disorder, he should be given life imprisonment.
"Taking a mentally ill man and executing him for something that he did in the throes of a severe mental illness shows no more compassion that what John Battaglia showed to those two children," defense attorney Paul Johnson said.
Battaglia did not testify in either phase of the weeklong trial.
Evidence seemed to indicate that Battaglia, wanting to punish his wife for trying to push authorities to revoke his probation on a domestic violence conviction, shot the girls at point-blank range and then taunted his wife, Mary Jean Pearle, as she listened and screamed in horror.
He also had beaten and abused two former wives.

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