HOUSTON -- A judge has delayed next week’s scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing three teenagers while they slept in a Texas Panhandle home more than 25 years ago.
John Balentine, 54, had been set to receive a lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville on Feb. 8.
He was condemned for the January 1998 shooting deaths of Edward Mark Caylor, 17, Kai Brooke Geyer, 15, and Steven Watson, also 15, at a home in Amarillo. Caylor was the brother of Balentine’s former girlfriend and prosecutors said the shootings were the result of a feud between Caylor and Balentine.
Balentine was arrested in Houston six months after the slayings. Evidence at the trial showed all three victims were shot once in the head as they slept in a tiny house where Balentine also once lived.
On Tuesday, state District Judge Steven Denny in Potter County withdrew Balentine’s execution date and warrant because the inmate’s attorneys had not been properly notified of the execution date and warrant outlining the lethal injection. Such notification is required under state law.
On Wednesday, Denny rejected a request by prosecutors to reconsider his order. The judge asked prosecutors to reset the execution as soon as practical with proper notice to Balentine’s attorneys.
Balentine’s attorneys have alleged that racial bias and other misconduct affected the jury’s deliberations at his trial. Balentine is Black.
Balentine is also one of five Texas death row inmates who are part of a lawsuit seeking to stop the state’s prison system from using what they allege are expired and unsafe execution drugs. Despite a civil court judge in Austin preliminarily agreeing with the claims, the state’s top two courts allowed two of the inmates who had been part of the litigation to be executed on Jan. 10 and on Wednesday.
Prison officials deny the lawsuit’s claims and say the state’s supply of execution drugs is safe.
Six more executions are scheduled in Texas for later this year, including the next one on March 7.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/juanlozano70.