The last words of a blind prisoner convicted of killing his estranged girlfriend by setting her on fire in her car have been revealed.
Lee Hall, 53, was put to death by electric chair in the US state of Tennessee on Thursday (local time), becoming only the second inmate without sight to be executed in the US since the reinstatement of the nation’s death penalty in 1976.
Hall was pronounced dead at a Nashville maximum-security prison, corrections officials said.
He chose the electric chair over Tennessee’s preferred execution method of lethal injection. He also became the first blind inmate in US modern history to die by electrocution.
Hall was already strapped into the electric chair when the curtains were raised for the witnesses — which included family, lawyers and reporters.
As his head swivelled around the room not appearing to focus on anything, he was asked if he had any final words. Hall initially said he needed a glass of water before talking. He was denied and asked again to make a statement.
“People can learn forgiveness and love and will make this world a better place,” Hall said, wearing a white T-shirt and rolled-up white pants.
Girlfriend killed while trying to leave prisoner
Hall had his vision when he entered death row decades ago, but his lawyers say he later became functionally blind from improperly treated glaucoma.
Court documents state that Hall killed Traci Crozier, 22, on April 17, 1991. by setting her car ablaze with a container of gasoline that he lit and tossed in her vehicle while she was inside and trying to leave him.
The container exploded and Crozier suffered burns across more than 90 per cent of her body, dying the next day in the hospital.
Crozier’s sister, Staci Wooten, and her father, Gene Crozier, watched Hall’s execution.
“Hopefully today ending this monster’s life will bring some peace within everyone who has had to suffer throughout these 28 years without my beautiful sister,” Ms Wooten said after the execution.
Defence attorney Kelly Gleason had asked the federal courts to stop Hall from being put to death after other attempts in state courts and with Tennessee’s governor had failed.
Those attempts officially came to a halt less than hour before Hall’s execution when the US Supreme Court declined to intervene.
Hall’s lawyer John Spragens read a brief statement from Hall’s family. Hall’s brother, David, was in attendance with the media witnesses during the execution, as well as Hall’s spiritual advisor.
“We are devastated by the loss of Traci and now Lee,” the statement read.
“Lee loved Traci more than anything and we welcomed her into our family and love her too. We also love Lee and wish that we could have changed the events of that tragic day.”
Hall’s lawyers had been fighting for months to delay the execution plan, arguing that courts should have had the opportunity to weigh new questions surrounding a possible biased juror who helped hand down the death sentence decades ago against Hall, who was formerly known as Leroy Hall Jr.
The woman — simply known as “Juror A” — acknowledged publicly for the first time this year that she failed to disclose during Hall’s jury selection process that she had been repeatedly raped and abused by her former husband.
Hall’s lawyers argued the omission deprived him of a fair and impartial jury — a right protected in both the Tennessee and US constitutions
However, both the Tennessee Supreme Court and Governor Bill Lee declined to step in despite pleas from Hall’s lawyers for more time to explore the possible legal concerns.
Tennessee is one of six states in which inmates can choose the electric chair, but it’s the only state that has used the chair in recent years.
Four out of six recent inmates put to death in Tennessee have chosen the chair since the state began resuming executions in August 2018.
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