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Texas executes man for murder of mentally-disabled woman

By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Tex. (Reuters) - Texas on Tuesday executed the second of two men convicted of abducting a former co-worker with mental disabilities and shooting her to death in 1998, laughing as the woman suffered.

In the first execution of the year in Texas, Michael Wayne Hall, 31, was put to death by lethal injection 13 years to the day after the death of Amy Robinson, 19. He was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m., said Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Hall's friend, Robert Neville, was executed in 2006 for the murder.

When Robinson was riding her bike to her job at a grocery store, Hall and Neville offered her a ride and drove her to a field in Fort Worth, according to an account by the Texas Attorney General's office. There, Neville tried unsuccessfully to shoot her with a crossbow, according to court documents. Then, Hall shot her with a pellet gun and Neville shot her with a .22 caliber rifle, killing her, the account said.

The two men returned to the scene a few days later. Hall took keys and money from her pocket and Neville fired shots into her dead body, according to the account.

Hall and Neville said in a 1998 television interview that they chose to kill Robinson, who was part American Indian, because she was not white and because she trusted them. Hall said in the interview that the two men "busted out laughing" as she died.

Hall's lawyers argued that he also had mental disabilities and was therefore exempt from the death penalty.

Before his death, Hall gave a tearful final statement in which he apologized to Robinson's family for causing "heartache, grief, pain and suffering" and to his own family for letting them down.

"Here I am, a big, strong youngster, crying like a baby," Hall said at the end of the statement, according to Clark. "I am man enough to show my emotions and I am sorry. I'm sorry for everything. I wish I could take it back, but I can't."

Hall's last meal was fried, barbecued and baked chicken, along with pizza, brownies, sweet tea, milk and vanilla pudding, Clark said.

The execution was the sixth in the United States this year. Texas executed 17 people in 2010, down from 24 in 2009. The state has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Texas' supply of sodium thiopental, a sedative in short supply used in the execution of Hall, expires in March. There is one more execution scheduled in the state this month, none scheduled for March and one scheduled for April. Some other states have moved to another drug, pentobarbital, which is sometimes used to euthanize animals.

(Editing by Greg McCune)