By MICHAEL GRACZYK Associated Press
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Attorneys for a North Texas man set to die for the 1998 torture-slaying of a 19-year-old mentally challenged woman exactly 13 years ago Tuesday looked to the U.S. Supreme Court to block his execution, the first of the year in the nation's busiest death penalty state.
Michael Wayne Hall, 31, faces lethal injection for the abduction and murder of Amy Robinson. He was one of two men convicted in her 1998 slaying. Hall's partner, Robert Neville, was put to death five years ago.
Lawyers for Hall argued he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty under a Supreme Court ruling barring capital punishment for those with an IQ under 70.
"Mr. Hall's history of mental retardation reaches back to his childhood," attorney Bryce Benjet said.
In appeals, Benjet questioned an assessment from one mental health expert who shifted from an earlier finding and said Hall was not mentally impaired. Three others who examined Hall said he was impaired.
Hall's lawyers went to the Supreme Court a day after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the state's highest criminal court — refused to stop the punishment. Similar appeals have failed in other courts.
Hall was 18 when evidence showed he and Neville, a 23-year-old paroled burglar, decided to abduct and kill Robinson, who worked at a Kroger store in Arlington. The men had been fired from jobs at the same supermarket.
Robinson had the genetic disorder Turner's syndrome, a rare chromosome condition found only in women and characterized by short stature and lack of sexual development at puberty. Prosecutors described her as mentally challenged and trusting.
Hall and Neville intercepted Robinson along the bike route they knew she took to work and offered her a ride. She accepted.
They drove her about 12 miles to a remote area of Tarrant County where Neville shot at her repeatedly with a crossbow but missed. They also shot her numerous times with a pellet gun and a .22-caliber rifle.
"Target practice," they bragged to reporters after they were arrested two weeks later trying to cross into Mexico near Eagle Pass. They also told reporters how they laughed as Robinson pleaded for her life.
After their arrests, Neville told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he and Hall wanted to become serial killers whose victims were racial minorities. Robinson was part Native American.
"We had a bet going to see who could shoot and kill the most people between the two of us," Neville said.
Hall said they returned to her body a few days later when he removed her keys and $4 or $5 from her pocket and he and Neville shot her several more times.
Last year when Hall's execution date was set, Amanda Robinson, the victim's sister, told the Star-Telegram that the punishment would allow her sister to finally rest in peace.
"I'm sad for his family, but he's got to pay the price," she said. "You can't go out and kill people."
Bill Harris, one of Hall's trial lawyers, said he believed Neville was the person who killed Robinson and "cooked up the whole scheme."
"I'm personally convinced Michael is mentally retarded, that he fits the classic definition," Harris said. "If you got to know Michael for very long, you got to understand he was pretty profoundly limited. Half the time he didn't remember my name."
Harris said even if Hall was taken from death row and put in the general prison population, life would not be easy.
"People with his mental limitations frequently are targets of some abuse and can be taken advantage of by other prisoners," he said.
At least four other Texas inmates have executions scheduled in the coming months. Timothy Wayne Adams is set to die next week for fatally shooting his 19-month-old son during an argument with his estranged wife at their apartment in Houston.