Texas executes John Balentine, sixth inmate to be put to dying in US this 12 months | Texas

John Balentine in 1999.

A person convicted of killing three youngsters whereas they slept in a Texas dwelling greater than 25 years in the past was executed on Wednesday, the sixth inmate to be put to dying within the US this 12 months and the second in as many days.

John Balentine, 54, whose attorneys argued his trial was marred by racial bias, acquired a deadly injection on the state penitentiary in Huntsville, for the January 1998 deaths of Edward Mark Caylor, 17, Kai Brooke Geyer, 15, and Steven Watson, 15, in Amarillo. Prosecutors mentioned all three had been shot as soon as within the head.

Balentine appeared jovial as witnesses entered the dying chamber, asking if somebody might therapeutic massage his toes. After a short prayer from a non secular adviser who held Balentine’s left foot along with his proper hand, the prisoner gave a brief assertion thanking pals for supporting him. Then he turned his head to look by way of a window at seven family of his three homicide victims and apologized.

“I hope you could find in your coronary heart to forgive me,” he mentioned.

The moms of every of the three victims had been among the many witnesses.

John Balentine in 1999.
John Balentine in 1999. {Photograph}: Texas Division of Prison Jus/AFP/Getty Photos

Balentine took two breaths because the deadly dose of the highly effective sedative pentobarbital started flowing, snored twice, yawned and commenced loud night breathing once more loudly. The snores – 11 of them – grew to become progressively quieter, then stopped.

At 6.36pm, quarter-hour after the injection, a doctor pronounced him lifeless. The victims’ witnesses shared high-fives. They declined to talk with reporters.

Caylor’s sister, who was among the many witnesses, was Balentine’s former girlfriend. Prosecutors mentioned the shootings stemmed from a feud between Caylor and Balentine. Ballentine argued that Caylor and others threatened his life over his interracial relationship. Balentine is Black. The three victims had been white.

Balentine confessed to the murders. One among his attorneys mentioned Balentine turned down a plea settlement that might have sentenced him to life in jail as a result of racist threats made him afraid of being attacked or killed whereas incarcerated.

Attorneys pursued two authorized methods. The primary was to argue that the trial and sentencing had been tainted by racism. Balentine was additionally amongst 5 Texas dying row inmates who sued to cease the state utilizing what they allege are expired and unsafe execution medicine. Regardless of a civil court docket decide in Austin preliminarily agreeing with the claims, the state’s high two courts have allowed three of the 5 inmates within the swimsuit to be killed. Robert Fratta, 65, was put to dying on 10 January and Wesley Ruiz, 43, on 1 February.

Jail officers mentioned the state provide of execution medicine is secure.

Balentine’s attorneys additionally alleged the jury foreman in his case, Dory England, held racist views and bullied different jurors who needed to condemn Balentine to life. Lola Perkins, who had been married to England’s brother, instructed Balentine’s attorneys England “was racist in opposition to Black individuals as a result of that’s how he was raised”.

In a declaration earlier than his dying in 2021, England mentioned he pushed for Balentine’s dying sentence as a result of he anxious if the accused was ever launched England himself “would wish to hunt him down”. England additionally mentioned he threatened to report one other juror to the decide for making prejudiced feedback when the individual “began going off about this Black man killing these white youngsters”.

Balentine’s attorneys alleged prosecutors blocked potential Black jurors and Balentine’s trial legal professionals referred to sentencing proceedings as a “justifiable lynching”.

Randall Sherrod, one in all Balentine’s attorneys, mentioned he couldn’t bear in mind the observe however denied that he or the opposite lawyer, James Durham Jr, had racist attitudes towards Balentine. Durham died in 2006.

“I feel he obtained a good trial,” Sherrod mentioned of Balentine. “I feel we had a superb jury … We tried to assist John no matter method we might.”

The US supreme court docket on Wednesday declined an attraction from Balentine’s attorneys to halt the execution so his claims of racial bias may very well be correctly reviewed.

A protection request for the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, to quickly keep the execution additionally failed and the Texas court docket of prison appeals denied a request to remain Ballentine’s execution over allegations that “racism and racial points pervaded” his trial. The appeals court docket denied the keep on procedural grounds with out reviewing the deserves.

On Wednesday, the Texas board of pardons and paroles unanimously declined to commute Balentine’s dying sentence or grant a 30-day reprieve.

“With out a thorough judicial consideration of Mr Balentine’s claims, we will haven’t any confidence that the dying verdict isn’t tainted by racial bias,” mentioned Shawn Nolan, one in all Balentine’s attorneys.