Texas Puts Killer to Death; Eighth Execution of 2019

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Texas executed Justen Hall, 38, on Wednesday night for the 2002 slaying of a woman in El Paso, the Texas Tribune reports. Hall was the eighth person executed in Texas in 2019. Identified in court documents as a district captain of a white nationalist gang, he was convicted in the strangling of Melanie Billhartz in El Paso. In his final statement, Hall said he wanted to address Billhartz’s relatives and “apologize for the pain and suffering” he caused.

Hall killed Billhartz while out on bond from a previous murder charge. He admitted killing Arlene Diaz in that case. Hall’s lawyers asked a court to push back Hall’s execution date until experts could evaluate his competency. The attorneys said Hall refused contact with counsel for at least two years and argued that signaled a drastic decline in his troubled mental state. Hall said he was competent to represent himself, and two doctors agreed. He asked courts to waive his appeals and schedule an execution date. “I do not like the person I have become, and I need to be put down like the rabid dog that I am,” he wrote to a judge in 2016. In 2002, Billhartz and Ted Murgatroyd, an alleged gang prospect, got into an argument near a drug house. After Billhartz threatened to call police — drawing authorities to the gang’s meth lab — she disappeared with Hall in her truck. Murgatroyd said Hall came back hours later with Billhartz’s body in the back of the cab.

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