DALLAS - Lawyers for the Dallas man convicted of killing his two young daughters while their mother listened helplessly over the phone are trying to convince a judge that their client is mentally unfit to be executed.
In March, a federal appeals court halted John Battaglia’s execution just hours before it was scheduled. He was granted a court-appointed attorney to investigate claims he may be mentally incompetent.
Battaglia shot and killed his two daughters in 2001. He allegedly did it to get back at his estranged wife, who tried to have him arrested for violating his domestic violence probation.
During Monday's hearing, Dr. Diane Mosnik, a psychologist hired by the defense, testified that Battaglia's mother suffered from bipolar disorder, experienced delusions and ultimately committed suicide. She argued that may show a family history of mental illness.
Dr. Mosnik said Battaglia had elevated scores for paranoia and mania. She diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and delusional disorder and believes he is incompetent to be executed.
She said he doesn't have a rational understanding of himself committing the crime because of his delusions of conspiracy. She claimed a person needs to have a rational understanding of why they're being executed or it would be cruel and unusual punishment.
“Because of the presence of significant delusions that pervade his discussions and his writings, his presentation, his performance on exams, he believes that this is for other purposes,” she said.
Under cross-examination, Dr. Mosnik admitted Battaglia had no prior mental illness diagnosis, is not taking any medication and did not report mental illness issues.
The state’s psychologist, Dr. Timothy Proctor, diagnosed Battaglia with delusional disorder and personality disorder. But he said a person can have a personality disorder or delusional disorder and still be competent for execution.
“He has a large conspiracy-based delusional system that involves a seemingly endless cast of characters being involved,” Proctor said.
In their tests, both experts agreed Battaglia is highly intelligent. Neither thinks he is faking a mental illness to try and avoid being executed on Dec. 7.
The hearing is expected to last through at least Tuesday.