Supreme Court Halts Texas Execution on Legal Assistance Issue


Condemned Texas prisoner John Balentine won a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday an hour before he could have been executed for killing three teenagers more than 13 years ago, the Associated Press reports. The high court 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.

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. Balentine, 42, was condemned for the triple slaying that resulted from 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 tonight.

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