TEXAS (USA): JUSTEN HALL EXECUTED
November 7, 2019:
Justen Hall, 38, White, was executed on 6 November 2019 in Texas. Former gang leader Hall admitted to police that he strangled Melanie Billhartz with an electrical cord, then ordered her fingers chopped off before ditching her body in the desert on October 28, 2002. The killing was part of an effort to prevent her from drawing attention to an El Paso drug house where Hall and other white nationalists made meth. Even though no one saw the killing, Hall was sentenced to die in 2005. At first, he waived his appeals. Then in 2013, attorneys with the state's Office of Capital and Forensic Writs filed a motion asking for “touch” DNA testing on the cord used to kill Billhartz, saying that evidence could exonerate him in spite of the testimony used to convict him. His legal team wrote: “No physical evidence or forensic evidence connected Mr. Hall to Ms. Billhartz’s murder, and the state relied on contradictory testimony from informants and an unreliable confession to implicate Mr. Hall.” But, as the case moved ahead in fits and starts, Hall asked again to waive his appeals and be executed, according to court records. “These walls 24/7 have broken me,” he wrote in a letter to the court. “It is taking every last ounce of will to even make it from day to day.” In a phone conference in 2017, he told the judge he was guilty and testing would only confirm it. His lawyers again questioned his mental state, pointing out that he’d just tried to kill himself on death row and had a long history of psychiatric problems that had only grown worse during his years in solitary confinement. (Source: Houston Chronicle, The Marshall Project, 06/11/2019)
The courts denied his appeal for testing in early 2019, and a few months later an El Paso judge greenlit a November execution date.
Hall becomes the 8th inmate put to death this year in Texas, the 566th person executed in Texas since the state resumed executions in 1982, the 19th this year in the US, and the 1,509th person executed in the United States since 1977.