The American state of Texas on Wednesday evening February 8 executed a man sentenced to death for a triple murder after a trial tainted, according to his lawyers, by racist prejudices. John Balentine, a 54-year-old African-American, received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m., prison officials said, nearly 25 years after shooting three white teenagers in their sleep.
According to court documents, one of them was the brother of his former girlfriend, who disapproved of their interracial relationship and threatened to kill him. John Balentine has never denied the facts, but his lawyer Shawn Nolan has argued that he received the death penalty because of racist biases during his trial. In an appeal which the Supreme Court of the United States did not follow up on, he recalled that the prosecutor had dismissed the black jurors and accused the lawyers who had then defended John Balentine of having “showed racist animosity” to their client.
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“Do you know how to spell “justified lynching”?”, had written one of them in a scribbled note, in reference to the murders committed in the segregationist South to traumatize the black population. Moreover, argued Shawn Nolan, one of the jurors, a former soldier hostile to African-Americans, had “bullied” the others in order to convince them to impose the death penalty. “I am rather stubborn and aggressive”Dory England admitted in writing in 2021. During deliberations, “I made it clear that (…) the death penalty was the only solution”he again acknowledged in this document attached to the procedure.
Shawn Nolan had transmitted his testimony and other new elements to the Texas justice on January 30 to request a reopening of the file. But the latter had refused his request, pushing him to turn at the last minute to the Supreme Court, without success. John Balentine is the sixth death row inmate executed this year in the United States.
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