This story was updated at 1:51 p.m. on Nov. 19 with new information and at 5:42 p.m. to include comments from Hall's attorneys.
A Hamilton County judge says attorneys for a Chattanooga man on death row failed to prove his trial should be re-examined on the basis of juror bias, meaning his execution will move forward next month.
Lee Hall, who has changed his name from Leroy Hall Jr., was convicted in the April 1991 burning death of his ex-girlfriend, Traci Crozier. The 53-year-old is set to be executed on Dec. 5 and has requested to die by electrocution. Tennessee's primary method of execution is lethal injection.
Last month, Hall's defense filed three different petitions that essentially would accomplish the same thing — stop or delay the execution. The motions asked for a new trial based on claims of constitutional violations after a juror — identified only as "Juror A" — recently disclosed she'd had a history with domestic violence, including rape, prior to Hall's trial.
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston vehemently opposed the petitions, noting that the arguments are untimely and didn't meet the standards set by state laws or precedents set by previous court rulings, and Poole previously dismissed two of the petitions for those reasons.
In a ruling Tuesday, Hamilton County Judge Don Poole said: "The petitioner's second post-conviction petition is barred by Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-102(c), which limits a petitioner to one post-conviction petition." Hall previously tried to appeal his conviction in 1998. Poole further stated: "This court concludes the Petitioner has failed to establish Juror A was prejudiced against him at the time of the trial."
Poole added that any expansion of a post-conviction petitioner's due process must be granted by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Pinkston's office declined to comment, noting the case is still pending, as it could go before the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Hall's attorneys confirmed they plan to appeal Poole's order and will seek sufficient time for the appellate courts to consider the issues — "whether a juror's undisclosed history of domestic violence deprived him of the fair trial guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and Tennessee."
"In a sworn declaration under penalty of perjury, she [the juror] described herself as "biased" against Mr. Hall," Hall's attorney Kelly Gleason said in a statement late Tuesday. "None of these facts [are] disputed."
"The facts establish that Lee Hall did not receive a fair trial: he was sentenced to death by a jury containing a member who 'hated' him due to her undisclosed history of spousal abuse," Gleason added. "But so far, no court has considered Mr. Hall's challenge on the merits."
Crozier's family is happy about the decision, her sister Staci Wooten said Tuesday, but they're worried.
"We're just anxious about the next 16 days and what will happen," Wooten said, pointing to the potential for an appeal.
Hall is the latest Tennessee man on death row to seek a delay in execution, claiming juror bias.
In September, a judge approved an agreement that converted the death sentence of Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman to life in prison due to concerns that racism tainted his jury selection pool, according to The Associated Press.
The agreement came after Abdur'Rahman, who is black, petitioned to reopen his case, presenting evidence that prosecutors at his trial treated black potential jurors differently from white potential jurors.
Tennessee's attorney general is appealing the agreement.