A former auto mechanic who shot and killed three of his former housemates while they were sleeping 14 years ago appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to delay his execution for a third time. John Balentine, 43, was scheduled to die by injection Wednesday evening. Balentine, who had a long criminal record in his native Arkansas before he killed the three Texas teens in January 1998, avoided lethal injection in September 2009 when a federal appeals court gave him a reprieve a day before his scheduled trip to the Texas death chamber. Then in June 2011, he was within an hour of execution when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped it. Balentine’s attorney is seeking to stop his execution again. “I thought it was done the last time,” Randall Sims, the district attorney in Amarillo, said. “The sad part of every delay is it’s not closure for the families of the victims.” Balentine’s lawyer, Lydia Brandt, argued he had deficient legal help at his 1999 trial, that his legal assistance during early appeals also was faulty and that the deficiencies have led to issues that should be reviewed in the courts but can’t be addressed now because they weren’t properly brought up earlier. “Mr. Balentine’s case is illustrative of why capitally sentenced prisoners in Texas have no meaningful opportunity to raise (these) claims,” Brandt told the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Katherine Hayes, an assistant Texas attorney general, disagreed, saying the latest appeals were “only another attempt to delay ... proceedings and further postpone his impending execution.” A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit refused Balentine’s appeal, and Brandt’s request for a rehearing before the full appeals court was rejected 11-4 by the court Tuesday. Brandt then took the case to the Supreme Court. On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, voting 7-0, rejected a clemency petition for Balentine. His guilt was not an issue in the appeals.
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
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