Justices halt Balentine execution in Texas

Justices halt Balentine execution in Texas
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 6:32pm

HUNTSVILLE — Condemned prisoner John Balentine won a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, about an hour before he could have been taken to the Texas death chamber for killing three teenagers at a home in Amarillo more than 13 years ago.

The high court said it stopped the lethal injection to review a petition from Balentine's lawyer that contended his legal help at trial and in early stages of his appeal was deficient. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused a similar appeal and Balentine's attorney, Lydia Brandt, wanted the Supreme Court to look at that refusal.

Last week, the high court agreed to review an Arizona case about whether a convicted offender is entitled to competent legal help in the early stages of an appeal, and Brandt cited that case in arguments to the justices. Another appeal for Balentine to the Supreme Court was turned down on Monday.

Balentine, 42, was condemned for the triple slaying that was the culmination of a feud he had with one of the victims.

He would have been the fifth inmate executed this year in Texas. Another execution is set for Thursday evening.

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