Jury Finds Man Guilty In Federal Death Penalty Kidnapping Case
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ A jury took about 2 1/2 hours Tuesday to convict a man of kidnapping and killing a teen-age girl who was repeatedly raped and buried alive as retribution for a $5,000 drug ripoff.
Orlando Hall, 24, was one of five men charged with murdering 16-year-old Lisa Rene, who was raped over two days and repeatedly beaten with a shovel before she was buried alive in a shallow grave near Pine Bluff, Ark.
``How could someone do that to a 16-year-old child?″ said 18-year-old Nicole Williams, a friend of the victim.
In a chilling plea captured on tape during a 911 call to police on Sept. 24, 1994, Miss Rene screamed in terror and begged an operator for help as men claiming to be FBI agents broke into her apartment and dragged her away.
Prosecutors say the men had gone to the apartment in search of the girl’s two brothers, whom they had paid $5,000 for drugs that weren’t delivered. When the brothers weren’t there, they took the girl.
Hall, of El Dorado, Ark., could receive the death penalty in one of the first cases to be tried under new provisions in the 1994 Crime Bill. The law added kidnapping resulting in death to the list of federal crimes punishable by lethal injection. He also could get life imprisonment without parole.
The federal court jury found Hall guilty of kidnapping resulting in death, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, crossing state lines in an attempt to distribute marijuana, and using a firearm during a kidnapping.
U.S. District Judge Terry Means instructed jurors to return Wednesday to begin hearing testimony in the punishment phase of the trial.
Attorneys were unable to comment on the trial because of a gag order. Miss Rene’s family left court without commenting.
In closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Curtis said Hall ``set this thing in motion″ and described Miss Rene as ``the one person who was completely innocent.″
``Orlando Hall kidnapped Lisa Rene, had her transported to Arkansas for the purpose of getting back at Lisa Rene’s brothers because he was cheated in a drug deal.
``This man decided Lisa Rene should die,″ Curtis said.
Defense attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses and presented no closing argument.
Three co-defendants pleaded guilty and testified against Hall in exchange for lighter sentences, which have not yet been determined. The fourth, Bruce Webster, 22, of Pine Bluff is scheduled to stand trial March 4.
Hall’s told authorities that Webster and another man hit the girl with the shovel, but he never delivered any blows. That was contradicted by testimony that said he participated in beating her on the lip of the open grave.