Prison front

Federal prison complex at Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE (AP) — Orlando Hall got stiffed on a drug deal and went to a Texas apartment looking for the two brothers who took his money. They weren’t home, but their 16-year-old sister was.

Late Thursday, Hall was put to death for abducting and killing the teenager, Lisa Rene. His was the eighth federal execution this year since the Trump administration revived a process that had been used just three times in the past 56 years. A judge’s stay over concerns about the execution drug gave Hall a reprieve, but for less than six hours. After the Supreme Court overturned the stay, he was put to death just before midnight.

Hall, a changed man in prison according to his lawyers and a church volunteer who had grown close to him, was consoling his family and supporters at the end. “I’m OK,” he said in a final statement, then adding, “Take care of yourselves. Tell my kids I love them.”

As the drug was administered, Hall, 49, lifted his head, appeared to wince briefly and twitched his feet. He appeared to mumble to himself and twice he opened his mouth wide, as if he was yawning. Each time that was followed by short, seemingly labored, breaths. He then stopped breathing. Soon after, an official with a stethoscope came into the execution chamber to check for a heartbeat before Hall was officially declared dead.

Hall’s attorneys also had sought to halt the execution over concerns that Hall, who was Black, was sentenced on the recommendation of an all-white jury. The Congressional Black Caucus asked Attorney General William Barr to stop it because the coronavirus “will make any scheduled execution a tinderbox for further outbreaks and exacerbate concerns over the possibility of miscarriage of justice,” according to a letter to Barr.

Meanwhile, another judge ruled Thursday that the U.S. government must delay until next year the first execution of a female federal inmate in almost six decades after her attorneys contracted the coronavirus visiting her in prison. Lisa Montgomery had been scheduled to be put to death on Dec. 8.

Hall was among five men convicted in the abduction and death of Lisa Rene in 1994.

Rene’s older sister, Pearl Rene, said in a statement that she and her family “are very relieved that this is over. We have been dealing with this for 26 years and now we’re having to relive the tragic nightmare that our beloved Lisa went through.”

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