Texas executes man who killed three teens in their sleep

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The state of Texas on Wednesday executed a man who was convicted of killing three teenagers while they were sleeping in 1998.

John Balentine, 54, was convicted of killing Edward Mark Caylor, 17; Kai Brooke Geyer, 15; and Steven Watson, 15, at an Amarillo, Texas home in January 1998. Balentine was 28 at the time of the teenagers deaths.

“Yes ma’am, I want to thank y’all. I love y’all for supporting me. I want to apologize for the wrong I did to y’all. Forgive me, I’m ready ma’am,” Balentine said in a final statement before being given a lethal injection. 

He was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m.

Initially, Balentine’s execution was in the air because a judge withdrew the man’s execution date and warrant last week, stating that the 54-year-old’s attorneys weren’t properly notified of the execution, which is required by state law.

Late Wednesday morning, a Texas Court of Criminals Appeals reinstated both the execution order and warrant after a request was made by Potter County prosecutors, where Balentine was convicted.

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John Balentine, 54, was convicted of killing Edward Mark Caylor, 17; Kai Brooke Geyer, 15; and Steven Watson, 15, at an Amarillo, Texas home in January 1998. Balentine was 28 at the time of the teenagers deaths.

John Balentine, 54, was convicted of killing Edward Mark Caylor, 17; Kai Brooke Geyer, 15; and Steven Watson, 15, at an Amarillo, Texas home in January 1998. Balentine was 28 at the time of the teenagers deaths. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

The U.S. Supreme Court also denied an appeal from Balentine’s lawyers on Wednesday afternoon. In the appeal, his lawyers said that additional time was needed in order for claims of racial bias during Balentine’s trial to be reviewed.

A separate stay request made to a federal judge in Houston on Wednesday was also denied, and the Texas paroles board voted unanimously not to lower Balentine’s death sentence to a different punishment or a 30-day reprieve. 

The appeals court denied a request to stay Balentine’s execution over allegations that “racism and racial issues pervaded” during his trial.

Texas prosecutors said that the shooting was a result of an ongoing feud between Balentine and Caylor.

Balentine confessed to murdering the teenagers, but one of his trial attorneys said that he turned down a plea deal which included a life sentence because he was scared of how he’d be treated in prison.

According to prosecutors, Balentine said that he received threats because of his relationship with Caylor’s sister, who’s White.

Shawn Nolan, an attorney for Balentine, said that the appeal’s court “unwillingness to address issues of bias and misconduct … is all the more problematic.”

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Mugshot of John Balentine

Mugshot of John Balentine (Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

Among the complaints from Balentine’s attorneys is that Dory England, the jury’s foreman, held racist believes and bullied other members of the jury into changing their minds about issuing a live sentence.

England also gave a declaration before dying in 2021, saying that he had pushed for a death sentence for Balentine because he worried that if the man was ever released, he “would need to hunt him down.”

Attorney’s for Balentine also say that prosecutors used their power to remove all potential Black jurors from being part of the jury.

“Without a thorough judicial consideration of Mr. Balentine’s claims, we can have no confidence that the death verdict isn’t tainted by racial bias,” Nolan said.

According to Balentine’s current attorneys, the trial attorneys allegedly referred to his sentencing proceedings as a “justifiable lynching” in a note.

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Randall Sherrod, a trial attorney for Balentine, said that he didn’t remember passing that note and said that he, as well as James Durham Jr., the other trial attorney, had no racist beliefs toward Balentine. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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