Orlando Hall is the eighth federal inmate scheduled to be put to death since July of this year. He will be the second Black inmate executed since the federal death penalty was reinstated this year after a 17-year moratorium. The 49-year-old received the death penalty for his role in the kidnapping, rape, and live burial of 16-year-old Lisa Rene in 1994. Hall was 23 at the time of the crime.
The Dallas News reported that Hall was the first person sentenced to death under the federal death statute which was enacted on September 13, 1994. His execution is scheduled for November 19 at the Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana, according to the Department of Justice.
Hall was sentenced to death along with another man, Bruce Webster, but Webster’s death sentence was overturned in April 2019 when a court deemed him intellectually disabled. There were three other men involved with the crime but Steven Beckly, Demetrius Hall (Orlando’s brother) and Marvin Holloway all plead guilty to kidnapping in exchange for a more lenient sentence according to the Associated Press’s reporting in 1995.
The Men Kidnapped, Raped & Killed Rene in Retaliation for Her Brothers Ripping Them Off in a Drug Deal
Rene was a straight-A high school student with goals of becoming a surgeon when she was abducted from an Arlington apartment by five men, according to The FBI Files.
She’d recently moved from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Arlington, Texas, to live with her older sister and her two brothers Neil Rene and Stanfield Vitalis. Rene was home studying when she heard pounding on the door, according to the FBI files. She called 911 but while she was on the phone with them one of the men broke the sliding glass door with a baseball bat and attacked Rene, then dragged her out of the apartment.
According to the AP, in a recording of Rene’s frantic call to 911 on September 24, 1994, she said, “‘They’re trying to break down my door! Hurry up!’ A muffled scream is heard seconds later, with a man saying, ‘Who you on the phone with?’ The line then went dead.”
The men were at the apartment looking for Rene’s brothers. According to Hall’s case files, He had flown to Texas from his home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and he and Beckley met with Neil and Vitalis at a car wash to do a drug transaction on September 21. Hall and Beckley gave Neil and Vitalis $4,700 to go buy a large amount of marijuana. The men were to meet up later so that Hall and Beckley could get what they paid for. But Neil and Vitalis never showed up.
Later, Hall was able to get Neil and Vitalis on the phone, but the two claimed that someone had stolen the money and their car, the case files report. Hall and Beckley tracked down where the brothers lived and staked it out. They saw the brothers show up in the vehicle they said was stolen, and decided they were lying about being robbed, according to the case narrative. Hall and Beckley called in reinforcements to go to the apartment to retaliate.
When the five men showed up to the apartment with guns and a baseball bat, the only person home was Rene.
The Men Repeatedly Raped the Teenager Then Buried Her While She Was Still Alive
According to the case narrative on Find Law, the group of men forced Rene into the car they were driving. While in the car Hall raped Rene and made her perform oral sex on him, the case files say. He then separated from the group for the night, flying back to Arkansas while they drove with Rene.
As reported in the case files, they got a hotel room where Beckley, Demetrius Hall, and Webster repeatedly raped the 16-year-old aspiring surgeon. Orlando Hall and Holloway showed up at the hotel the next day and took her to the bathroom for 15 to 20 minutes each. After that Hall said, “She know too much,” according to the case files.
Then Hall, Holloway, and Webster left the motel and went to Lake Byrd to dig a grave. Their intention was to take Rene to the grave that night but when they went back with Rene and it was dark they could not find the grave, the case files say.
The returned the next morning. According to the case narrative:
Lisa Rene’s eyes were covered by a mask. Hall and Webster led the way to the gravesite, with Beckley guiding Lisa Rene by the shoulders. At the gravesite, Hall turned Lisa Rene’s back toward the grave and placed a sheet over her head. He then hit her in the head with a shovel. Lisa Rene screamed and started running. Beckley grabbed her, and they both fell down. Beckley then hit Lisa Rene in the head twice with the shovel and handed it to Hall. Webster and Hall then began taking turns hitting her with the shovel. Webster then gagged Lisa Rene and dragged her into the grave. He covered her with gasoline and shoveled dirt back into the grave. Hall, Beckley, and Webster then returned to the motel and picked up Demetrius Hall.
According to the AP, a coroner’s report showed Rene died of asphyxiation, which means she was still alive when they buried her. The teen’s naked body was found eight days after she was buried. The AP reported that Hall told police they burned her clothes with gasoline they planned on using to “light her brothers on fire.”
The case narrative says, “On September 29, 1994, an arrest warrant was issued out of the City of Arlington for Hall, Demetrius Hall, and Beckley for Lisa Rene’s kidnapping. Demetrius Hall, Beckley, and Webster were subsequently arrested. On September 30, 1994, Hall surrendered to Pine Bluff authorities in the presence of his attorney.”
Hall’s Attorneys Are Trying to Get His Death Sentence Overturned Based on Him Having an All-White Jury & ‘Incompetent Lawyering’
A statement issued from Hall’s attorneys on September 30, it says:
Orlando Hall, a Black man, was sentenced to death by an all-White jury. Mr. Hall has never denied the role he played in the tragic death of Lisa Rene. But the jury that sentenced him to death did not know key facts about his background, and the path toward personal redemption that Mr. Hall has followed in prison shows that he is not among the ‘worst of the worst’ for whom the death penalty is properly reserved.
The proceedings that led to Mr. Hall’s death sentence were marked by racial bias and incompetent lawyering.
Hall’s attorneys are hoping to convince the courts to overturn his death sentence before November 19 because they say the “U.S. Supreme Court has expressly found” that one of the prosecutors who was a member of the prosecuting attorney’s team more than once kept Black people out of the jury box, leaving Hall to be convicted by an all-white jury.
His attorneys also say that the jury wasn’t told about Hall’s childhood which was marked by “severe trauma” due to “poverty and brutality, where he and his siblings witnessed almost daily violence in their parents’ marriage. Nor did they hear how Mr. Hall first fell into selling illegal drugs when he was left alone to care for his younger brothers after his parents essentially abandoned the younger children.”
They also point out that Hall once jumped off a third-story balcony to save his little nephew who was drowning in a pool.
These combined things, along with Hall’s remorse, should make him ineligible for the death penalty, his attorneys say, but they still have to convince a judge.
As for Hall’s remorse, according to the statement, he wrote an apology to the Rene family but was not allowed to send it to them. It said, in part:
I want to apologize to Lisa Rene’s family and ask them to forgive me, even though I know that there is no possible way they can forgive me and I understand that. I want to ask God to forgive me, however, I question in my own mind whether even God can forgive me.