Amy Robinson's grandmother slams killer's mental retardation claim

A decade after Amy Robinson was abducted, shot with pellets and left for dead, the fate of one of her two killers remains unsettled.

Michael Wayne Hall has appealed his death sentence, offering evidence that he is mentally retarded.

That has angered Ms. Robinson's family, especially her grandmother, Carolyn Barker of Grand Prairie. It is her granddaughter, Mrs. Barker said, whose own mental defect made her an easy target for Mr. Hall and his co-defendant Robert Neville Jr.

Prosecutors said the pair, who trial testimony showed had been friends with the 19-year-old Arlington woman, tortured and then killed her. They later returned to the spot where they had left her and fired numerous shots into her body.

Mr. Neville was executed two years ago.

Mr. Hall was tried separately and also sentenced to death. But last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard evidence that Mr. Hall is mentally retarded and should not be executed. It is not clear when the New Orleans-based court would issue its decision.

Mrs. Barker, who raised Ms. Robinson, says Mr. Hall was equally as violent as Mr. Neville in the fatal attack and should pay with his life.

"I'm just seething," Mrs. Barker said of the possibility that Mr. Hall's death sentence might be chopped to life in prison. "A life sentence for this man, it's very upsetting. I don't know how to say it without sounding cruel, but Hall was the one who shot the bow and arrow at her, shot her with BBs.

"It's almost unbelievable what they did to this child," she said. "It's been too good to let him live this long."

Mr. Hall and Mr. Neville worked with Ms. Robinson at an Arlington grocery store and knew her routine, according to court records. On Feb. 15, 1998, the two picked Ms. Robinson up as she bicycled to work.

Following a 17-day search, Ms. Robinson's body was found in a field near the Trinity River bottoms, just north of Arlington.

"We knew our lives would never be the same," Mrs. Barker said. "She's never forgotten. I think of her every day."

Mrs. Barker, 67, said Mr. Hall seemed to enjoy the killing and the notoriety it brought them.

The two men fled after Ms. Robinson's slaying and were caught at a customs checkpoint near Eagle Pass. During a jailhouse interview, they told reporters that they laughed as they watched Ms. Robinson die.

"They wanted to be on TV," Mrs. Barker said. "They wanted to be thrill killers. They bragged about it."

Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney Alan Levy prosecuted both men. He said Mr. Hall knows right from wrong and does not deserve a reduced sentence.

"There is no question he knew what he was doing," Mr. Levy said. "You can look at the evidence and his own statement and conclude that he was aware, knew what he was doing."

Mr. Hall's attorney, David Sheldon of Washington, D.C., disagrees, saying his client has the mental capacity of a child.

Mr. Hall, he said, has significant limitations. IQ tests that suggest Mr. Hall's intellectual functions and language skills are limited and his comprehension slow, Mr. Sheldon said.

"There's never been an on-the-record hearing with respect to the issue of mental retardation," said Mr. Sheldon. "The death of Amy Robinson was very much a tragedy. It is unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded person."

Mrs. Barker, however, sees him differently. She believes Mr. Hall changes his behavior when it benefits him.

"He clutched a Bible during trial," she said. "He played like he was mentally retarded, and he's still playing."

She wants the trial jury's decision upheld.

"He deserved the death penalty," Mrs. Barker said. What does it say if that gets overturned? I put a lot of faith in the jury system. When you're sitting there and that jury is out, you worry. You worry that [the defendants] will get out and harm someone else. It would be devastating to let this guy hurt someone else.

"And, he would."