Victim's family seeks clemency for Alabama man set for execution Thursday

Joe Nathan James Jr. is set to be executed Thursday for the murder of his former girlfriend, Faith Hall, in 1996. File Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Corrections
Joe Nathan James Jr. is set to be executed Thursday for the murder of his former girlfriend, Faith Hall, in 1996. File Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Corrections

July 26 (UPI) -- Alabama is set to carry out its second execution of the year later this week, over opposition from the victim's family who want to forgive and activists who accuse the state of unfairly targeting death row prisoners who haven't chosen their own method of execution.

Joe Nathan James Jr., 49, is scheduled to be executed Thursday at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala.


He was sentenced to death in 1996 for the murder of his former girlfriend, Faith Hall, on Aug. 15, 1994. Prosecutors said James fatally shot Hall during a burglary in Birmingham.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer dismissed James' request for a stay of execution as his other lawsuits make their way through the courts. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also denied the stay Tuesday.


James also sought to change his method of execution to nitrogen hypoxia -- death by inhalation of nitrogen gas -- on July 17. Alabama allows death row inmates to choose to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia, but they had to select the option within a 30-day window in June 2018.

Those who didn't make a selection during that time frame, including James, were set to be executed by Alabama's default method, lethal injection. Alabama doesn't have a protocol established for nitrogen hypoxia executions and therefore hasn't carried out any.

The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based non-profit that seeks to end excessive punishment in the United States, accused the Alabama Department of Corrections of unfairly prioritizing for execution death row prisoners who didn't opt in to the nitrogen hypoxia method.

"Many people sentenced to death refused to cooperate in their own executions by choosing a method," the EJI said in a post on its website last week. "Many human rights groups have condemned forcing a person to participate in their own deaths as a violation of fundamental human rights and religious freedom."

Hall's family, meanwhile, has called on the state to grant clemency to James. Her two daughters, Toni Melton and Terryln Hall, were 3 and 6 years old, respectively, at the time of her murder. Her brother Helvetius Hall was 24, two years younger than his sister.


"Taking his life will not bring my mother back," Melton told WBRC-TV in Birmingham. "Everyone is saying, 'y'all are getting justice, y'all are getting justice.' This is not justice. This is just another family going through a loss like we did."

Helvetius Hall told WIAT-TV in Birmingham that his sister and James had problems but he didn't expect it to lead to murder. He said his feelings toward James have evolved over time -- he wanted to kill him after he learned of his sister's death.

"But God was in me," Helvetius Hall said. "And I thank him for it."

"For years, I hated him, too," Terryln Hall said. "But as I got older and started living my life and raising my own kids, I had to find it in my heart to forgive this man.

"I forgive him, but I'll never forget what he did to us."

The family said they hope the state will commute James' death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"We shouldn't be playing God," Melton said. "An eye for an eye has never been a good outlook for life."

If executed Thursday, James will be the second person put to death in Alabama this year and the eighth in the United States.


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