A Chattanooga man attempting to dodge the electric chair will have to wait a few days to know his fate after Criminal Court Judge Don Poole heard his petition. Leroy Hall, 53, is set to be executed on Dec. 5 if his petition is denied. Hall, who was convicted of murdering girlfriend Traci Crozier in 1992, alleges a juror in the case was biased against him. Hall has been on death row for 28 years.
“It’s been very tiring. After 28 years and seven months, it’s time for it to come to an end,” said Ms. Crozier’s father.
During a six-hour hearing on Thursday, defense attorneys Kelly Gleason and Jonathan King brought in four witnesses, the most important being the allegedly biased juror, referred to only as “Juror A.” She answered questions about her past, which included an unhappy first marriage that she said began as horrifically as it ended. Juror A said she dated her first husband while in high school. Shortly thereafter, she said he raped her and a pregnancy resulted, which prompted a hasty marriage.
“If you dated a guy (back in the 1960s), it was considered consensual,” said the juror, who told the court she was not even aware of the concept of date rape at the time.
The same could be said about her understanding the domestic assault and abusive relationship she said she endured for half a decade during her marriage. While she said he would be violent while drunk, and controlling throughout the day, the juror said she never considered herself a victim of any crime. At the time, domestic assault was not something she considered a crime, she testified.
She continuously stressed this during her testimony to both the defense attorneys and District Attorney Neal Pinkston. She contended she had never been the victim of a crime because she did not think of herself as one. The defense also focused in on a statement she made to an investigator earlier this year, where she said she had negative thoughts about Hall as he testified.
“I know during the trial I never thought of myself as biased,” said the juror, “It was a fleeting thought. I didn’t dwell on it.”
After her husband committed suicide, she remarried a few years later. This new husband was a loving one, and she told the court she buried any memories of her old marriage after marrying once more. She told the court about her travels around the world and country with her second husband. It was not until the second husband passed in 2007 that she went to grief counseling and was forced to confront her past.
By the time people from the post-conviction defender’s office came around in 2014, Juror A was at peace with her past. The juror said she brought it up with the investigators.
“I don’t recall why I started talking about it,” said the juror, “I’ve changed political parties, gotten wiser, and gotten more open about talking about my past.”
The next three witnesses worked for the post-conviction defender’s office, and detailed the process of tracking down and contacting the jurors for post-trial interviews. Attorneys King and Gleason questioned the trio about the financial and technological restrictions placed upon the office. Using a program called “Faces of a Nation,” the investigators could find addresses, but not phone numbers or much other information about their targets.
In the case of Juror A, who now lives in another state, they told the court they were not able to go visit the juror because they simply did not have the funds necessary to finance a cross-country trip. DA Pinkston wondered why they never tried to get in touch with Juror A through phone or letter. All three said the office never mailed or called interview candidates, because a response was more likely if the investigators just showed up in person.
Judge Poole listened to each of these arguments, and decided he needed some time to think about what he heard.
“I’ll look at everything again,” said Judge Poole. “I’ll look at the files, I’ll look at the petition, and it’s important that we act quickly, so I will enter an order quickly to do that.”
“I hate that they did that to that lady,” said Staci Wooten, sister of Traci Crozier. “She shouldn’t have had to come up here and do that.”
In April 1991, Hall threw a jug of gasoline on Ms. Crozier while she was in her car, and set her on fire with a Molotov cocktail. The two had been a couple for around five years before Ms. Crozier had attempted to break up with the abusive Hall earlier in 1991. Prior to the murder, Hall believed Ms. Crozier was planning on getting an abortion, despite her not being pregnant at the time, it was stated.
“She was a beautiful person, and this never should have happened to her,” said Ms. Wooten. “I’ve hated that it’s dragged out this long - for 28 years.”
After a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and arson, Hall accepted his fate as a condemned man for nine years. But in 2001, Hall decided to appeal the decision, and has spent the last 18 years attempting to avoid the death penalty.
“You’re about to meet your maker, son. That’s all I got to say,” said Traci Crozier’s father.