The famed American poet Robert Frost once wrote that he believed in the “inalienable right of anybody to go to hell in his own way.”
Justen Grant Hall in October 2002 brutally Melanie Billhartz in El Paso, Texas. At the time Hall was the District Captain of a white supremacist gang known as the Aryan Circle. Billhartz was an associate of the gang. At the time of the murder, Hall was on bond for the hate crime murder of a transgender person named Hector Auturo Diaz—a murder that occurred five months before the Billhartz murder.
Hall was convicted and sentenced to death for the Billhartz murder in 2005.
In 2015, the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs undertook efforts to save Hall from execution by filing a motion seeking DNA testing of the murder weapon he used to kill Billhartz. Hall opposed these efforts.
In February 2016 Hall filed a motion in proper person to have the OCFW motion withdrawn. He urged the trial court to set an immediate execution date. Over the next thirteen months Hall pleaded with the trial court and the District Attorney’s office to get on down the road to his jury-ordered execution. Hall offered these reasons to the court and the DA’s office for his execution demand:
- “I do not like the person I have become, and I need to be put down like the rabid dog I am. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror and face myself.”
- “These [death row] walls 24/7 have broken me. It is taking every last ounce of will to even make it from day to day.”
- “I have done this [trying to stop the OCFW efforts] because I believe it’s time for justice to be served, and to give the victim’s family closure.”
- “[I] will not be filing any last minute appeals or motions. If there is anything filed on my behalf after you have issued me an execution date, it will have been done without my permission and should be disregarded.”
- “[The OCFW motion] should be denied or withdrawn as it would be a waste of time and money, as my DNA is on the murder weapon and the [motion] was only filed as a stall tactic.”
- “[The DNA motion is] just a waste—its going to be a waste of the Court’s time to even pursue it … because, you know, my DNA is going to be there. And if it’s not, then it’s by some miracle. But, you know, that’s the murder weapon I used to kill Melanie.”
- “Well, I can guarantee you I’m 100 percent competent … if you’re going to send some doctors over here to test me, I can guarantee you they’re going to come back with a finding that I’m competent. So that would just be a waste of the Court’s time.”
- “I killed Melanie, and I killed Arturo. And I accept the punishment for it, and I am ready to get it over with.”
- “I’m guilty of this crime … the jury sentenced me to death, and I’m ready for the punishment to be carried out.”
Over the next two years Hall’s case meandered through the state’s appellate process before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on January 30, 2019 said Hall’s execution could go forward.
I do not believe in the death penalty, but I do believe Hall has an “inalienable right” to force the State of Texas to execute him. A jury sentenced him to death. The state has a mechanism in place to carry out that sentence. It is time for the State to accept its responsibility to fulfill Hall’s “inalienable right to … go to hell in his own way.”