Missouri and Texas execute Leonard Taylor and John Balentine – two executions in 24 hours

Two death sentences were carried out in the United States this week. The first execution had been expected, the second came as a surprise because the execution order had been suspended the previous week.

On Tuesday night, 58-year-old Leonard Taylor, also known as Raheem, was executed by lethal injection in the U.S. state of Missouri. He was sentenced to death for allegedly killing his girlfriend and her three children, ages 5, 6 and 10, in 2004. Taylor always maintained his innocence, and there is evidence he was 2,000 miles away in California at the time of the crime.

Originally, investigators said the victims were killed just days before they were discovered. However, at the trial, the medical examiner changed the estimated time of death to a window of two or three weeks, saying it was due in part to the cool temperature in the house.

Taylor’s attorneys have argued that there was evidence that Rowe and her children were alive at the time Taylor was in California. In a statement, the Midwest Innocence Project said Taylor was wrongfully killed “by the very system that should have protected him.”

“Since his arrest, Mr. Taylor proclaimed his innocence loudly for all to hear. Yet no one – not the police, not the prosecutor, not the lawyers charged with his defense – has seriously investigated this claim of innocence,” the group wrote.

On Wednesday night in Huntsville, Texas, 54-year-old John Lezell Balentine was executed with a lethal injection, an overdose of pentobarbital. He was sentenced to death for the murder of three teenagers in 1998.

The execution of the death sentence came as a surprise, as Balentine’s execution order had been revoked the previous week due to formal errors. It was only reinstated a few hours before the execution date.

His lawyers pointed out that their client’s sentence had racist overtones. They said the jury foreman had spoken out accordingly and influenced the jury. The three victims were white; Balentine is black.

In his final words, he thanked his friends for their support. Then he turned his head and looked through a window at seven relatives of his three murder victims and asked for forgiveness. “I hope you can forgive me in your heart,” he said.

When a doctor pronounced Balentine dead 15 minutes after administering the lethal injection, the victims’ relatives reportedly high-fived each other in victory pose.