Man executed in Texas in trial claimed to be tainted by racism

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The US state of Texas on Wednesday executed a man sentenced to death for a triple murder despite claims by his lawyers that his trial was tainted by racial bias.

John Balentine, a 54-year-old African American, received a lethal injection, nearly 25 years after he shot three white teenagers as they slept.

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Balentine was pronounced dead at 6:36 pm local time (0036 GMT Thursday) in the city of Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

It said Balentine’s last statement was: “Yes, ma’am, I want to thank y’all. I love y’all for supporting me. I want to apologize for the wrong I did to y’all. Forgive me, I’m ready ma’am.”

One of the slain teens, according to court documents, was the brother of his former girlfriend, who disapproved of their interracial relationship and threatened to kill Balentine.

Balentine never denied the crime, but his lawyer Shawn Nolan argues that he was given the death penalty because of racial bias at his trial.

In an appeal to the US Supreme Court, Nolan says the prosecutor dismissed Black jurors. Nolan also accused Balentine’s attorneys at the time of showing “racist animus” toward their client.

“Can you spell ‘justifiable lynching?’” one of the attorneys wrote in a scribbled note, referring to the vigilante killings in the segregated South to traumatize the Black population.

In addition, Nolan added, one of the jurors, a former military officer who was hostile to African Americans, had intimidated the others to convince them to impose the death penalty.

“I am pretty stubborn and pretty aggressive,” that man, Dory England, admitted in writing in 2021.

During the deliberations, “I made it clear that we were chosen to take care of this problem, and that the death penalty was the only answer,” he admitted in a document attached to the proceedings.

Nolan filed England’s testimony and other new elements in Texas courts on January 30 to request a reopening of the case.

The state courts refused his request, prompting him to file an eleventh-hour appeal to the US Supreme Court, which declined to intervene.

Balentine was the sixth person on death row to be executed in the United States this year.

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