The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday halted [opinion, PDF] the execution of a Texas man who was convicted of killing his children while their mother listened on the phone. John Battaglia was scheduled for execution on March 30, but the court held that the lack of access to counsel during his habeas relief petitions after his relationship with his counsel had deteriorated was a violation of his due process right to counsel. The district court had previously denied his claims and request for counsel even though there existed an allegation in regards to his competency and need to investigate a Ford claim. While the state argued that any appeal or prayer for relief had unlikely success, the court reversed the prior ruling due to the severity of the permanent injury to Battaglia.
Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US. Mississippi lawmakers last week reintroduced a bill that would allow for execution by firing squad [JURIST report] as an alternative to lethal injection. Also this month a Missouri state judge ordered [JURIST report] the Missouri Department of Corrections to disclose the source of the execution drug used by the state in order to comply with the Missouri Sunshine law. Last week the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled [JURIST report] that the state can execute a man whose execution was halted in 2009 after a failed attempt to administer lethal injection drugs. Earlier in March Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill [JURIST report] revamping the state’s death penalty law. The changes are in response to the US Supreme Court ruling in January that the state’s previous sentencing scheme was unconstitutional [JURIST report].