Hello from Terre Haute, IN, where the Trump administration plans to execute 49-year-old Orlando Hall tonight. There is a stay currently in place, which I only found out about upon arriving at the media center a little while ago. Of course, this could change.
By now there are several familiar faces at the FCC Terre Haute Training Center, from the BOP official who lets us in to park, to the lady taking temperatures, to the spokesperson who gives the brief media orientation. These are the vans that take press witnesses to the prison.
Ordinarily BOP staffers provide little to no information to press about the status of appeals, etc. But we have been told there is “activity in the courts” and that it could be a long night. As far as the DOJ is concerned, the execution will happen, it is just a matter of when.
See Rob's thread for information on the stay of execution currently in place.
Here's my story on Orlando Hall. It's an awful case in many ways. Crime was horrific: the abduction, repeated rape, & murder of a 16 year-old Lisa René in 1994. Hall & a man named Bruce Webster both got death. But Webster's sentence was vacated last year. theintercept.com/2020/11/18/dea…
We have been told René's family is here and will issue a written statement to media after the execution. Presumably some one is witnessing on behalf of the family, but can't say for sure. I was unable to reach any relatives for my story.
There are big red flags in Hall's case, not the least of which is that he was tried by an all-white jury. One of the prosecutors, Paul Macaluso, formerly of the Dallas DA's office, had a record of deliberately excluding Black jurors. (Although he has denied it, including to me.)
Another one is all-too common: the failure of Hall's trial attorneys to do the kind of painstaking investigation required to provide mitigating evidence at sentencing. Like so many who end up on death row, his early life was marked by poverty, trauma, abuse, and neglect.
Many dismiss this kind of history, but it is has huge consequences for people's development, especially when one is raised amid extreme violence. In this case it's also clear that at least one juror craved more info that might've helped explain why Hall went down the path he did.
You can read my story for more on this. But it is one element of the case I found telling & sad. Years after she voted for death, the jury foreperson wrote to Hall under a pseudonym to learn more about him. They wrote for awhile, but she stopped because it got too overwhelming.
At the Dollar General across from the prison, anti-death penalty activists are holding their protest and vigil. It’s getting cold and dark and they are looking at a long night.
Here is the briefing schedule in the case. I feel sorry for the witnesses, particularly those reporters who have already done this several times. One local reporter has witnessed every execution since July. This will be her 8th.
After hanging out for while at the Dollar General, activists have dispersed for the time being. Media witnesses were let go & told to report back at 8:30pm. We don't expect to know more until well after that. In July, the first 2 executions did not happen until the next morning.
I didn't apply to witness. I've been rejected when I have. The BOP hasn't explained how they select media witnesses. But Covid makes me relieved not to be chosen. Like lawyers who've been told they can't bring their own N95s, BOP won't let media witnesses bring their own masks.
On a lighter note, Covid also means I’ve been avoiding hotels/other people. Which means I’m becoming a bit of an expert on Terre Haute’s Airbnbs. (I mean, not to brag.) This one is peak Indiana, if you ask me.
At the Dollar General, just saw the vans pull into the penitentiary.
To be clear, there is still litigation pending before the courts. Follow @RDunhamDPIC for updates. Of course, have previously seen DOJ & BOP pushing forward without regard for legal process. In the meantime, witnesses wait in vans.
Looks like the execution will move forward. Not unexpected. We've seen a version of this over & over. Men facing execution have come to dread temporary stays. Their nightmare is what happened to Daniel Lee, who waited 4 hours while strapped to the gurney before he was killed.
A guy who knows Hall on death row has been describing what it's like to have their last conversations. In one of his last emails, he said Hall had recently written his obituary w/the help of a loved one. "He'd found it strange speaking and writing about himself in the past tense"
Hall has a large family, who has been coming to see him for weeks. Some are here in Terre Haute tonight, but he reportedly did not want immediate family to witness. As I've said before, loved ones of the condemned are not allowed at the media center. Only victims' families are.
Yesterday, Hall sent a final group email: "I want to Thank ALL of you for your humanity, although our government has said I don't deserve your compassion and that your reverence for my life and others' in my position is misplaced, your presence...has proven them wrong once again"
"...I have truly been humbled by your altruism and ...commitment to abolishing the death penalty, to you spreading love, Mercy, Love, and the power of redemption. Just as important, is you're calling for it what it is, Government sanctioned murder, nothing more and nothing less."
Tonight I'm thinking of Bill Pelke, who would have been here to bear witness. He flew from Alaska to protest each execution since July. His mantra was: "The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity." He lived that message until the day he died. washingtonpost.com/local/obituari…
A small group of people has returned to the Dollar General as we wait for word of the execution. Including three members of Orlando Hall’s family. It is cold and pitch black here. They are standing in front of their parked car, facing the penitentiary.
The email just came from the BOP: "Please report back to the Media Center at this time if you choose to." Orlando Hall has been executed.
Statement from the sister of Lisa Rene.
It’s almost 1AM and Orlando Hall’s spiritual advisor Yusuf Ahmed Nur is speaking to reporters at the Dollar General. He was in the execution chamber & is very disturbed by what he saw. He called it butchery and decried the money & resources put into killing a fellow human being.

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More from @LilianaSegura

24 Sep
Good morning from Terre Haute, IN, where the DOJ plans to kill another man in the federal death chamber tonight--the 7th since July. Christopher Vialva was 19 when he killed a young couple in Fort Hood, TX. His co-defendant is also on death row. He was 18. theintercept.com/2020/09/20/fed…
At 40, Vialva isn't the youngest man to face execution under Trump. Lezmond Mitchell was 38 when he died last month. Both did horrific things at 19. Advocates for both also describe how they grew up, showed remorse, contributed to the world around them. theintercept.com/2020/08/25/lez…
When the Supreme Court struck down death sentences for juveniles in 2005, it was on the basis that young people are less culpable for their crimes. Scientific research has long shown that brain development continues well into our 20s. None of us are the same people we were at 19.
Read 25 tweets
22 Sep
So, I’m back in Terre Haute, IN, where the Trump DOJ is preparing to carry out its 6th federal execution since July. These vans were at the FCC Terre Haute Training Center a moment ago, but they just left, carrying media witnesses for the killing of William LeCroy at 6pm. Image
It's hard to know what more to say right now. This is my third trip to Terre Haute this year, following a couple of visits in 2019. Some previous coverage here: theintercept.com/2020/08/02/fed… & here
theintercept.com/2020/08/25/lez… & here theintercept.com/2020/09/09/fed…
When I first visited Terre Haute last year, my first stop was the local library, which has a small archive related to the federal penitentiary. When it opened in 1940, a fawning press described it as “a hospital to cure men of tendencies which make them socially undesirable.”
Read 28 tweets
9 Sep
I wrote (again) about the events in Terre Haute, where the Trump administration killed two more people last month. At least two more federal executions are set for this year, with additional dates likely to be on the way. theintercept.com/2020/09/09/fed…
One thing I want to quickly highlight is an interview I got too late to include in my previous piece about Lezmond Mitchell, whose lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get permission from the court to investigate racial bias among jurors. (More on that here): theintercept.com/2020/08/25/lez…
On the eve of Mitchell's death, I spoke to the jury foreperson. Despite the fact that she was among 11 white jurors (& one Navajo) she remembers thinking it was people "from all walks of life...all kinds of backgrounds. And I thought, Wow, this is really...a jury of your peers.”
Read 6 tweets
28 Aug
For the 5th time since last month, I’m outside the FCC Terre Haute training center. The Trump administration plans to kill Keith Dwayne Nelson in just over an hour. Media witnesses have not left yet. But I did see Nelson’s spiritual advisor being escorted to the prison earlier. ImageImage
Media witnesses are kept separate from non-witnessing press at this makeshift media center. But in a briefing earlier we were told the family of Nelson’s victim, 10-year-old Pamela Butler, will address reporters afterward. As far as any stays, BOP says “there are no impediments.”
Eight media witnesses just filed into the two vans, which are pulling away now. A number of these reporters have witnessed all four federal executions before today. A few more witnessed the execution of Lezmond Mitchell on Wednesday.
Read 14 tweets
26 Aug
Hello again from Terre Haute, IN, where the Trump administration plans to kill Lezmond Mitchell in just over an hour. Last month, 3 men were executed here in one week. I’m back at the FCC Terre Haute training center, where media witnesses should be leaving for the prison soon. Image
These are the vans that take reporters to the prison grounds, where they go through security before being led to the death chamber. There are some familiar faces here. A couple journalists here witnesses last months’ executions, which turned into punishing all-night ordeals. Image
Vans just pulled out. The execution appears to be set to take place on schedule.
Read 13 tweets
17 Jul
Hi again from Terre Haute, where Dustin Honken is scheduled to die in less than an hour and a half—the third execution this week. Most people seem to think he will be killed on schedule, at 4pm ET. Image
Again, these are the vans that take witnessing press into the prison for processing. A number of reporters here spent spent all night Wednesday waiting on the execution of Wesley Purkey yesterday—after already staying up all night Monday for the killing of Daniel Lee Tuesday AM. Image
Vans just left a few minutes ago. It looked like fewer witnesses this time, but would have to check to be sure. I’ve been told that the victims’ families will release a written statement afterward but will not speak directly to the press.
Read 12 tweets

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