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Fifth Circuit Halts Texas Execution of Child Killer

(CN) - The Fifth Circuit on Wednesday halted the scheduled execution of a Dallas man sentenced to die for killing his two young daughters in 2001.

John David Battaglia was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday night.

However, his attorneys argued they needed more time to determine whether his trial was fair and whether he's mentally competent for execution.

The Fifth Circuit stayed Battaglia's execution this morning, and the Texas Attorney General's Office later said it would not appeal that decision.

Battaglia was convicted of gunning down his 9- and 6-year-old daughters while their mother his ex-wife listened helplessly on the phone. Prosecutors said Battaglia carried out the murders to get back at the girls' mother for filing a harassment complaint against him. That complaint led to the issuance of a warrant for his arrest.

Texas officials had earlier said Battaglia's appeal to the Fifth Circuit had no merit because there is no evidence to show that he's incompetent.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in Ford v. Wainwright that it is unconstitutional to execute an individual who is insane. However, the court said people with mental illness can be executed so long as they understand the punishment that awaits them and why they are being put to death.

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