A blind prisoner convicted of killing his estranged girlfriend by setting her on fire in her car was put to death Thursday in Tennessee’s electric chair. Lee Hall, 53, became only the second inmate without sight to be executed in the U.S. since the reinstatement of the nation’s death penalty in 1976.
Hall was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m. at a Nashville maximum-security prison, prison officials said. He chose the electric chair over Tennessee’s preferred execution method of lethal injection — an option available to inmates in the state who were convicted of crimes before January 1999. He also became the first blind inmate in U.S. modern history to die by electrocution.
A witness to the execution said that Hall’s final words were that “people need to learn forgiveness and love and make the world a better place.”
Hall chose a Philly cheesesteak, two orders of onion rings, a slice of cheesecake and a Pepsi for his last meal, CBS affiliate WTVF-TV reported.
Hall had his vision when he entered death row decades ago, but his attorneys say he later became functionally blind from improperly treated glaucoma. Only one other known blind inmate has been executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976: Clarence Ray Allen, 76, received a lethal injection in California in 2006.
Court documents state that Hall killed 22-year-old Traci Crozier 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% of her body, dying the next day in the hospital.
Crozier’s sister, Staci Wooten, and her father, Gene Crozier, had said earlier they planned to watch Hall’s execution.
Defense 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.
Previously, Hall’s attorneys 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 she had been repeatedly raped and abused by her former husband during Hall’s jury selection process. Hall’s attorneys argued the omission deprived him of a fair and impartial jury — a right protected in both the Tennessee and U.S. constitutions.