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On Thursday, February 8, John Balentine was put to death by lethal injection at the state penitentia…

On Thursday, February 8, John Balentine was put to death by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas.[0] Balentine had been convicted of shooting dead three teenagers while they slept in a Texas Panhandle home more than 25 years ago.[1] However, his attorneys argued that the trial was marred by racial bias, including the jury foreman who held racist views and used racial slurs during his life, as well as the prosecutor’s strikes of two Black prospective jurors, resulting in an all-white jury.[2]

The jury foreman, Dory England, allegedly held racist views and used racial slurs during his life, and reportedly bullied other jurors who had wanted Balentine to receive a life sentence. The appeals court denied a request from Balentine's lawyers to stay his execution over allegations that “racism and racial issues pervaded” his trial and the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday declined an appeal from Balentine’s attorneys to halt his execution so that his claims of racial bias could be properly reviewed.[3]

Balentine also argued that Caylor and others had threatened his life over his interracial relationship, as he is black.[0] This interracial relationship had been the root of his conflict with Caylor, and prosecutors said the shootings stemmed from a feud between them.[4]

Lawyers later argued that the jury foreman in Balentine's case, Dory England, had a history of racism, using racial slurs, and bullying other jurors who had formerly agreed to give Balentine a life sentence into changing their opinions. Mrs. Perkins, who was wed to England's brother, informed Balentine's lawyers that England “was racist against Black people because that is how he was raised.”[1]

With so much material pointing to the mishandling of Balentine’s sentencing phase at trial, and with so much evidence of racial animus in the case, Shawn Nolan, another of Balentine's attorneys, points to a pair of 2017 opinions addressing racist trials – Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado and Buck v. Davis – that suggest Balentine's death sentence should be held to be unconstitutional.[5]

Balentine was apparently jovial as he entered the chamber, reportedly asking someone if they could help massage his feet and chuckling as he was placed on the gurney.[0]

0. “Death Row inmate asked for foot massage before execution for killing three teens” Daily Star, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/world-news/death-row-inmate-asked-foot-29170385

1. “Texas executes inmate for fatally shooting 3 teens in 1998” The Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/man-who-fatally-shot-3-texas-teens-in-1998-faces-execution/2023/02/08/0b1caf96-a7e2-11ed-b2a3-edb05ee0e313_story.html

2. “Evidence of Racial Bias in Texas Case Approaching Execution” Death Penalty Information Center, 7 Feb. 2023, https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/news/evidence-of-racial-bias-in-texas-case-approaching-execution

3. “Texas man executed for killing three Amarillo teens” Huntsville Item, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.itemonline.com/news/texas-man-executed-for-killing-three-amarillo-teens/article_d99da3de-a81e-11ed-a25b-8be4f7b65e4c.html

4. “Murderer who killed teens apologises in final words before witnesses ‘high five'” The Mirror, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/us-news/murderer-who-killed-teens-apologises-29170401

5. “Death Watch: Shocking Evidence of a Thoroughly Racist Trial” Austin Chronicle, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2023-02-10/death-watch-shocking-evidence-of-a-thoroughly-racist-trial/