The Washington Post
Alabama executes killer despite pleas from the victim’s family members
Terryln Hall was just 6 when Joe Nathan James Jr. followed her mother, Faith Hall, to a friend’s house in August 1994 and shot her three times, killing her.
James was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. And for years, the younger Hall hated him, she told WBRC. “I did have hatred in my heart for this man because you took my mother,” she told the station. “But as I got older, became a mother myself, I had to realize you can’t walk around with hatred in your heart.”
“In order for me to live a prosperous life,” she added, “I had to forgive.”
As James’s execution approached this month, Hall, her sister, and their uncle made a heartfelt plea to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), requesting that she stop James’s execution.
In the end, their request was denied.
On Thursday evening, James was executed by lethal injection at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala.
“Justice has been served,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) said in a statement. “Joe James was put to death for the heinous act he committed nearly three decades ago: the cold-blooded murder of an innocent young mother, Faith Hall.”
Hall’s family instead called it a “tragic day.” In a joint statement before James was put to death, they said they would not attend the execution as they had forgiven James for “his atrocities toward our family.”
“We are having to relive the hurt that this caused us many years ago,” the statement said, adding that they hoped “the state wouldn’t take a life simply because a life was taken.”
James’s execution comes as a majority of Americans continue to support the death penalty, according to a June 2021 Pew Research survey, which found that while 60 percent of U.S. adult respondents favor it for those convicted of murder — 78 percent of respondents worried that an innocent person might be executed.
James had been on death row since 1996, when he was convicted of killing 26-year-old Hall, his ex-girlfriend.
On Aug. 15, 1994, Hall and her friend Tammy Sneed were driving home from a shopping trip in Birmingham when Hall noticed James following them in a car. Because James had previously stalked her and threatened her, Hall and Sneed drove to Sneed’s apartment and fretted over what to do, according to court documents.
They called the police, but James arrived and forced his way into the home, carrying a gun. James asked Hall about a man he had seen her with and eventually started shooting. As Hall tried to escape toward the bathroom, James chased her and shot her in the abdomen, chest and head.
At the time, Terryln Hall was 6, and her sister was 3, WBRC reported.
Once James was sentenced to death, the Alabama Court of
Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction after ruling a judge had improperly admitted evidence in the earlier trial, the Associated Press reported. But James was convicted again in 1999 and again received the death penalty.
On Tuesday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied James’s request for a stay of execution. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday also denied a petition for a stay submitted by James.
State Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D) sent a letter to Ivey requesting on behalf of the family that she stop the execution and that James instead continue to serve a life sentence without the possibility for parole, Al.com reported last week.
But on Wednesday, Ivey announced she would not do it.
“My staff and I have researched all the records and all the facts and there’s no reason to change the procedure or modify the outcome,” Ivey told reporters. “So, the execution will go forward.”
On Thursday evening, James had no last words before the injection was administered, and his eyes were closed throughout the procedure, Al.com reported. He died at 9:27 p.m.
Hall’s family expressed their grief.
“We pray that God allows us to find healing after today and that one day our criminal justice system will listen to the cries of families like ours even if it goes against what the state wishes,” their statement read. “Our voices matter and so does the life of Mr. Joe Nathan James, Jr.”