Tennessee executed death row inmate Lee Hall in the electric chair Thursday night, marking the fourth time the state has used the method since 2018.
Hall, 53, was pronounced dead at 7: 26 pm CST, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction. Media witnesses described what appeared to be a faint trail of white smoke rising from Hall’s headeach time the lethal current coursed through his body.
One witness described seeing what may have been a drop of blood that fell on to Hall’s white shirt as the second current was applied.
Hall, also known as Leroy Hall Jr, was sentenced to death forkilling his ex-girlfriend Traci Crozierin 1991. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated arson by a Hamilton County jury in 1992.
Hall was the 138 th person put to death in Tennessee since 1916, and the sixth inmate executed since the state resumed capital punishment in August 2018. Hall also is believed to be only the second legally blind death row inmate executed since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in (********************************************************************.
Tennessee was originally set to execute Hall in April 1998, and again in 2016. Legal delays blocked those dates, but the courts and Gov. Bill *** refused to intervene this time.
Executions have become a grim routine in Tennessee since the state resumed them in 2018.
Much of Hall’s execution matched others that preceded his, according to the six media witnesses. But the smoke they described was unusual. Federal public defender Kelley Henry said it was evidence of torture.
Henry represents many death row inmates and has witnessed an electrocution. She said the smoke could be a sign that the execution team did not douse Hall with enough water, or that the sponge strapped to his head had melted.
Department of Correction spokesperson Dorinda Carter, who also witnessed the execution, said the vapor was “a small amount of steam, not smoke, which is a natural function of the combination of solution and heat.”
Carter said the execution “went as designed without any complications. “
Peace after 28 Years
After the execution, Crozier’s sister Staci Wooten said 28 years of pain had ended for her family .
“Our family’s peace can begin, but another family’s hell has to begin,” she said, reading from a prepared statement. “We all fought this battle for you, Traci, and today we won.”
Hall released his own statement apologizing to Crozier’s family. His attorney John Spragens shared it after the execution.
“I’m sorry for the pain I caused,” Hall’s statement read. “I ask for your forgiveness, and I hope and pray that someday you can find it in your heart to forgive me. “
Hall also apologized to his family, including his brother David who attended the execution.
” I hope this brings peace, “Hall’s statement read. “I don’t want them to worry about me anymore.”
Last-minute legal efforts fail to halt execution
Hall’s attorneys launched a last-minute attempt to overturn his conviction and block the execution, saying a juror in his 1992 trial was unfairly biased against him.
Defense attorneys in new filings requested to vacate the original conviction on Oct. 14 , just a month and a half before Hall’s execution.
An unnamed female juror from Hall’s original trial said her own history of violent rape and abuse at the hands of her first husband prejudiced her against Hall. She had not described her history of abuse during jury selection – it came to light for the first time in September.
Attorneys requested Hall’s original case be reopened as part of a post-conviction relief appeal, paving the way for a trial court and appeals process that could have delayed the execution.
Courts rejected that argument. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a two-sentence order Thursday night declining to step in.
In a statement Wednesday, the governor said the case had been fully and fairly litigated for nearly 30 years.
“The judgment and sentence stand based on these rulings, and I will not intervene in this case, “Lee said Wednesday afternoon.
Hall’s death part of a trend in Tennessee, but not the nation
Tennessee is an outlier in the nation, carrying out executions at a steady clip since 2018 despite the fact that most states have backed away from the practice.
Hall’schoice to die by electrocutionis another sign that Tennessee is bucking a national trend – no other state has used the electric chair since 2013.
Hall was one of dozens of inmates who challenged the state’s controversial lethal injection method in court, saying it caused unconstitutional torture.
Hall is now the fourth inmate to choose the electric chair over electrocution.
‘She was just a free spirit,’ Traci Crozier’s dad says
The horror of Hall’s crime has remained prominent as state and federal courts weighed the latest wave of legal questions. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals described the Crozier’s death in visceral detail in an order Wednesday.
Hall, then 24, and Crozier, 22, had lived together for five years before she moved in with her aunt the month before her death.
On the night of April 16, 1991, Hall doused Crozer with gasoline and then threw a “jug full of gasoline that Hall lit with a paper-towel fuse “into her car, the court filing read.
She suffered burns over 95% of her body and died hours later.
Emergency room doctors at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga said she had
Hall initially denied involvement in the fatal fire but then told police that he intended only to destroy the car, not to kill Crozier.
He later told police he made the homemade gas bomb as protection from her uncle but threw it at Crozier after she laughed at him and refused to reconcile their relationship. Hall also left threatening messages for Crozier ahead of the murder.
Wooten, Crozier’s sister, told reporters that Hall was often abusive to Crozier and the rest of their family after the pair met in high school.
To Wooten, the only way justice could come for her sister was with the death sentence carried out.
Gene Crozier and Staci Wooten speak about the murder of Traci Crozier, for which Lee Hall faces the death penalty. Nashville Tennessean
“He’s nothing to me,” Wooten saidin a recent interview. “I just want him dead, and then I’ll be a happy person.”
Traci Crozier’s father, Gene Crozier, said in a recent interview his daughter got along with everyone. )
“She was just a free spirit,” he said. “She never missed a day of class.”
Every day since her death, Traci Crozier’s family has mourned her loss and focused on the death of Hall to set them free from overwhelming grief.
Wooten wished her children could have grown up with their aunt in their lives and that Crozier could have had a family of her own one day.
“I don’t think she ‘ll rest until this has happened, “Wooten said in an interview a few weeks before the execution. “He took her life, now his life is getting took.”
Hall faced death with ‘a strong faith’
Hall’s life behind bars has been a mystery in recent weeks. But the Rev. Kevin Riggs, pastor of Franklin Community Church, called Hall a soft-spoken, unassuming person and a Christian.
“He has a strong faith now,” Riggs said. “I think he has remorse.”
Riggs knew Hall through the volunteer ministry work Riggs does on death row. When they first met, Riggs said Hall still had his sight. Riggs said Hall told him about begging to go to the eye doctor, but the prison would not send the inmate for medical care.
Dan Mann, who visits with another death row inmate, interacted with Hall only a handful of times, but called him a gentle man. On Thanksgiving, Mann found out Hall was a big baseball fan as they spent time together in the visitors area reminiscing about major sports highlights.
Outside the prison on Thursday night, protesters stood in the cold as they waited for Hall’s death sentence to be carried out. On one side of the fence, four men stood in support of the death penalty. On the other, about (people showed up to stand against it.)
The larger group gathered into a circle to share prayers and make remarks. After awhile, they fell silent waiting for word that Hall had been pronounced dead.
The Rev. Matthew Lewis, the assistant to the rector at Christ Church Cathedral, broke into the quiet, announcing Hall’s death to the group. He invited them to sing a few verses of “Amazing Grace” before telling them all to “Go in peace. Amen. ”
“ Amen, ”many of those assembled responded.
Lewis recently got to know Hall through his work as a volunteer chaplain to death row.
“I think it means a lot to the guys on the inside for us on the outside as they say to stand as close as we can and this is as close as the prison lets us get, ”Lewis said. “I think it’s a solidarity thing and for the people ourselves to be here in a circle.”
He described Hall as quiet and introverted.
“But able to flash a smile as he ran into other guys that he knew, ”Lewis said. “Slow to speak, but once you got to know him as he kind of came out of his shell he was nice to talk to.”
Holly Meyer and Jason Gonzales contributed to this report.
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