Victim’s Family Opposes Execution of Joe James

Updated 07.28.22

Terryln, Helvetius, and Toni Hall said they are opposed to the execution of Joe Nathan James.

Photo by Lee Hedgepeth

Toni and Terryln Hall oppose the execution of Joe James, 50, for the 1994 shooting of their mother, Faith Hall, and asked Gov. Kay Ivey to stop the July 28 execution and commute Mr. James’s sentence to life in prison without parole.

After the governor refused the Hall family’s request for clemency and told reporters the execution would go forward, Alabama Rep. Juandalynn Givan released a statement on behalf of Faith Hall’s family.

Today is a tragic day for our family. We are having to relive the hurt that this caused us many years ago. We write to inform you that we have decided to not attend the execution of Mr. Joe Nathan James Jr. We’ve asked Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall to hear our voices and respect our wishes. We know they decided not to.

We hoped the state wouldn’t take a life simply because a life was taken and we have forgiven Mr. Joe Nathan James Jr. for his atrocities toward our family. We have relied upon our faith to get us through these dark days. Although we knew this day would come, we hoped to have our voices heard through this process. We’d like to thank State Representative Juandalynn Givan for her help and assistance by reaching out to the Governor’s office. We pray that God allows us to find healing after today and that one day our criminal justice system will listen to the cries of families like ours even if it goes against what the state wishes. Our voices matter and so does the life of Mr. Joe Nathan James, Jr.

Faith Hall’s daughters and her brother, Helvetius, told CBS42 that the planned execution will not bring them closure. Instead, it has ripped open old wounds.

“It’s really bothering me,” Toni said. “To know that someone is going to lose their life.”

Toni said she told prosecutors that the family does not want Joe James to be executed. 

“We shouldn’t be playing God,” she said. “An eye for an eye has never been a good outlook for life.” 

“At the end of the day,” Terryln said, “I feel like no human has to power to kill anyone whether they’re right or wrong.”

The killing of their mother when they were three and six years old was devastating for Toni and Terryln and filled them with anger. But they insist that forgiveness should prevail over vengeance today. 

Terryln, Toni, and Helvetius all told CBS42 they have forgiven Mr. James. They believe Faith would have forgiven him, too, and she would not have wanted Mr. James to be executed.

The family wants Mr. James to know they hold no animosity towards him. Toni said she would tell Mr. James that she wishes this wasn’t happening to him, and Helvetius Hall said they are praying for his family.

The family has asked Gov. Kay Ivey to commute Mr. James’s sentence. “I don’t want it to go forward,” Terryln said. “We’re not God. The Governor is not God.”

They reached out to State Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham), who wrote to the governor on their behalf to request a stay.

“The family has stated publicly and privately that they do not wish for Joe Nathan James to be executed,” Ms. Givan said in a news release. “They have with deep prayer, consideration, and conviction, are asking for mercy by sparing the life of Mr. James. Instead, they are asking that he continue to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole.”

Helvetius Hall said executing Mr. James will only add to the trauma Faith Hall’s family has already experienced. “I’ll see him at nighttime when I sleep,” he said. “I don’t need that.”

“Taking his life is not going to bring Faith back,” he said.

The Hall family joins a growing number of family members of homicide victims who oppose capital punishment and increasingly are making their voices heard around the country.

Family members opposed to the death penalty have been active in state campaigns to abolish capital punishment, including State Rep. Renny Cushing, whose father and brother-in-law were murdered in two separate incidents. He led the successful repeal of New Hampshire’s death penalty in 2019, which was also supported by State Sen. Ruth Ward, whose father was killed when she was seven. 

John Wolfe, whose two daughters were murdered, testified powerfully in the Iowa legislature against efforts to reintroduce the death penalty, arguing that the death penalty would only prolong families’ agony and noting the risk of wrongful executions.

These recent examples follow in the footsteps of efforts like that of 179 murder victims’ familes who urged Connecticut lawmakers to abolish the death penalty over a decade ago. They wrote that the death penalty is a “broken system” that “wastes millions of dollars that could go toward much-needed victims’ services” and leaves families of victims “frustrated and angry.”