U.S. government schedules execution of Orlando Hall

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Sept. 30 (UPI) -- The Department of Justice on Wednesday scheduled the execution of a man convicted of murdering a 16-year-old Texas girl in 1994, the inmate's attorneys announced.

Orlando Hall, 49, of Arkansas is set to be put to death Nov. 19 after 25 years on death row.

He and four other men were found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Lisa Rene. Prosecutors said the men killed the teen because her two older brothers stole about $4,000 from them as part of a drug deal.

Hall's attorneys said it would be a "grave injustice" for the federal government to move forward with his execution. They said that though he never denied his involvement in Rene's death, they don't believe the jury would have sentenced him to death if they knew "key facts" about his case.

"Because Mr. Hall's court-appointed attorneys conducted no meaningful investigation into the case, the jurors were unaware of the severe trauma Mr. Hall suffered growing up in a home marked by poverty and brutality, where he and his siblings witnessed almost daily violence in their parents' marriage," a statement from Marcia Widder and Robert Owen said.

Of the five men charged with Rene's murder, only Hall and one other, Bruce Webster, faced capital prosecution by the federal government. The other three were allowed to sign plea deals for prison time in exchange for testifying against Hall and Webster. Those three men have each served their sentences and been released from prison.

Defense attorneys also blamed racial bias in the selection of an all-White jury that ultimately convicted and sentenced him.

"During jury selection, the prosecution team enlisted the help of a former state prosecutor known for keeping Black citizens from serving on criminal juries," Hall's attorneys said.

"In the years since Mr. Hall's trial, the U.S. Supreme Court has expressly found that this very prosecutor, in a trial that preceded Mr. Hall's, discriminated against Black potential jurors on account of their race and then lied under oath in an attempt to conceal his racist conduct."

An analysis released earlier this month by the Death Penalty Information Center found that people of color -- particularly Black Americans -- have disproportionately faced executions in the United States.

Of the 57 people presently on federal death row, 34 are persons of color. More than two dozen are Black men and some were convicted by all-White juries.

If executed Nov. 19, Hall will be the eighth person put to death by the federal government this year. The Justice Department resumed federal executions in July after a 17-year hiatus.

Hall is one of several plaintiffs named in a court case seeking an injunction on future federal executions after William LeCroy was found to have experienced pulmonary edema while conscious during his execution Sept. 22.

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