Texas executes man convicted of killing 3 teens in 1998

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A man convicted of killing three Texas teenagers while they slept in 1998 was executed Wednesday night, prison officials said.

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John Lezell Balentine, 54, was put to death by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, hours after a court reinstated the execution, the Texas Tribune reported.

A physician pronounced Balentine dead at 6:36 p.m. CST, 14 minutes after receiving the lethal injections, according to The Associated Press.

Before making his final statement, Balentine jokingly asked someone standing near the gurney could remove the sheet covering the lower two-thirds of his body “and massage my feet,” according to the news outlet.

“I want to thank y’all. I love y’all for supporting me,” Balentine said before the execution was carried out, according to the Tribune. “I want to apologize for the wrong I did to y’all. Forgive me, I’m ready.”

Balentine was convicted for the January 1998 shooting deaths of Edward Mark Caylor, 17; Kai Brooke Geyer, 15; and Steven Watson, 15, according to the AP. Prosecutors said all three teens were shot once in the head as they slept at a home in Amarillo.

A jury found Balentine guilty of capital murder in 1999, according to the Tribune.

Although Balentine confessed to the murders, his current lawyers argued that racism “pervaded” the trial, leading jurors to hand down a death sentence instead of life in prison, the Tribune reported.

A state district judge in Potter County recalled the execution date and execution warrant last week after discovering that Balentine’s attorney was not properly notified of the warrant of execution, the website reported.

On Friday, prosecutors appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, asking it to reinstate Wednesday’s execution date. With two judges dissenting, the court consented.

Caylor’s sister, who was among the witnesses at the execution, was Balentine’s former girlfriend, the AP reported. Prosecutors said the shootings resulted from a feud between Caylor and Balentine. Ballentine, however, argued that Caylor and others had threatened his life over his interracial relationship. Balentine is Black. The three victims were white.

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