If we're going to talk about John Lezell Balentine's uncertain execution date, then I think it's important that we also talk about why the inmate is on Texas Death Row.

The long and short of it is: he wanted to be given the death penalty.

On January 21, 1998, Balentine shot three teenage boys in the head as they slept in a home in Amarillo, Texas. He was convicted and sentenced to death on April 19, 1999.

During the sentencing phase, Balentine turned down a plea bargain offer with a life sentence and instead chose Death Row. Why? Because he knew he would have a better quality of life there. As a result, Balentine has now been on death row for 24 years and received three stays of execution with no word on a future execution date.

Details, Events, & Facts

The following information has been taken directly from court proceedings and appellate briefs.

  • In a recorded confession, Balentine described how he walked several miles to the home he once shared with his ex-girlfriend, Misty Caylor and entered through a window.
  • He first went to the kitchen for a glass of water before navigating to the room where his three victims slept.
  • Initially, he found his gun was jammed. He went to the alley and fired several shots to clear the weapon--then returned to the room and shot Edward Mark Caylor (17), Kai Brooke Geyer (15), and Steven Brady Watson (15) each in the head as they slept.
Balentine v. Lumpkin, TDCJ; Fifth Circuit, U.S. CoA
Balentine v. Lumpkin, TDCJ; Fifth Circuit, U.S. CoA
  • He knew only one of the three victims, 17-year-old Mark Caylor, who was the brother of his ex-girlfriend.
  • As Balentine fled the scene, he was detained by an officer who responded to a shots fired call. He gave conflicting answers to the officer and a .32 caliber bullet was located in his front pocket. Because the bodies of the boys had not yet been discovered, the officer had no probable cause to detain the suspect and released him. Balentine then fled the city, he was later apprehended in Houston, Texas.
  • A search of Balentine's residence produced a receipt showing the purchase of .32 caliber bullets from a nearby K-Mart; the same caliber of bullet cases located on the scene.
Balentine v. Lumpkin, TDCJ; Fifth Circuit, U.S. CoA
Balentine v. Lumpkin, TDCJ; Fifth Circuit, U.S. CoA
  • During his trial, his attorneys were able to secure an offer from the State that would spare him the death penalty. He rejected the offer and expressed his clear desire to receive the death penalty. His reasoning being that he would enjoy a better quality of life there than in general population.
  • His criminal history demonstrates a clear pattern of escalation and violence against adolescents and women. In the robbery of a 14-year-old boy, he struck the youth on the head with a beer bottle.
  • In 1996, Balentine entered a woman's home in Arkansas by breaking the window--much like he would do several years later in Amarillo--and kidnapped the female by use of physical force and threats of harm.
Balentine v. Lumpkin, TDCJ; Fifth Circuit, U.S. CoA
Balentine v. Lumpkin, TDCJ; Fifth Circuit, U.S. CoA

Time is a powerful thing. Time has the power to erase and to cause memories to fade. While the above is not intended to be commentary on the death penalty, it is intended to serve as a reminder of the circumstances that put this inmate on Texas Death Row.

John Lezell Balentine has spent more time on Death Row than his victims were alive. And that alone is a dark contradiction in itself.

Executed Death Row Inmates from the Texas Panhandle

The following individuals were convicted of Capital Murder for crimes committed in the Texas Panhandle (Amarillo and its surrounding areas) and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Read a brief summary on the area's executed Death Row inmates.

All information and photos have been taken from TDCJ and court records.

Amarillo Criminals On Death Row


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