PRESTONSBURG — After four weeks of trial Berry Hall was found guilty Thursday of intentional murder in the 2008 deaths of Lisa and Alan Tackett.
The jury took little time in returning a verdict, reappearing in court less than four hours after they were given instructions. All total, Hall was found guilty of two counts of intentional murder, but with mental illness, for the deaths of Lisa and Alan Tackett. He was also found guilty of four counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, but with mental illness.
The addition of the tag of “but with mental illness,” does not change the scope of the charge or limit the possible punishments he could receive, but rather indicates that if incarcerated, the defendant is entitled to mental health treatment. Hall can still face anything up to and including the death penalty.
Closing arguments were given by the prosecution and the defense Thursday morning in the Floyd County Circuit Court murder trial of Berry Hall.
Defense attorney Will Collins told jurors that there is no question as to what happened on March 20, 2008, when Hall shot Lisa and Alan Tackett, but that the question of why remains. “This was a horrible, horrible crime,” said Collins. “Of that, there is no doubt.”
Hall now faces sentencing for the 2008 double murder of Lisa and Alan Tackett. The defense tried to convince the jury that Hall, because of depression and anxiety, was not mentally stable at the time of the shooting. Hall took to the stand in his own defense Monday and blamed the late Dr. Charles Hieronymous, who treated Hall for depression.
“Those two people are dead because he gave me Prozac,” Hall said. “It was Charlie’s fault. He was the one that done negligent. I told him that stuff wasn’t right, told him it was causing anger.”
In his closing argument, Collins told jurors that Hall’s confused testimony was a result of his ongoing mental illness and his inability to accept what he did. Collins told jurors Hall is not trying to mislead anyone about his actions. “He’s not trying to hide it from you; he’s trying to hide it from himself.”
According to Collins, the prosecution “cherry-picked” its evidence, including a second interview with Hall that took place at the jail. Collins said the interview showed an audibly shaken and crying Hall. The prosecution offered testimony of that interview, but never introduced the recording into evidence.
Collins cautioned the jury that they are not charged with having sympathy for the the victims or their children, but to weigh the facts of the case. “You’re not brought here to express the outrage of the community. Your job here is to rule on the facts.”
Collins described Hall before the murder as hard worker, a good family man and parent and said, “Berry Hall, except for that one horrible moment, was a good man.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Arnold Brent Turner focused his closing argument on the deliberate nature of Hall’s actions, and how he seems to deflect blame.
“This defendant is the type of person who doesn’t like to be held accountable,” said Turner.
Turner told the jurors that Hall had the oldest and most frequent of motives — anger, frustration and hatred.
“He hated these people,” Turner said of Hall’s feelings toward the victims. “He was tired of it. It wasn’t insanity, it wasn’t extreme emotional disturbance, it wasn’t Prozac, and it wasn’t demons.”
“He didn’t like them, he didn’t like them living next to him, and he got rid of them,” said Turner. “Or as the defendant’s doctors testified, ‘He eliminated the stressors.’”
During the course of the trial, the prosecution has worked to prove that, despite Hall’s depression, he was still aware of the criminality of his actions and showed intent to kill Lisa and Alan Tackett.
“You aimed that gun through the scope, you’re saying at the ground, but somehow when you pulled the trigger, you shot Lisa just about right in the heart, didn’t you?” Turner asked Hall when he took the stand on Monday.
“Yeah, I know that. [That’s] how come I didn’t understand how I hit that girl in the heart right there,” said Hall.
“Well, isn’t the logical explanation because that’s where you were aiming? When you’re trying to kill somebody, that’s where you shoot them, isn’t it?” asked Turner.
“Well, yeah, that’s a good point,” Hall conceded.
Family members of the victims were present Thursday for closing arguments and openly wept in the audience as Turner described the violent nature of Alan and Lisa Tackett’s deaths.
Turner said that according to the law, we can’t shoot people who “make us angry.”
Turner referred to Hall’s confused, often rambling testimony “pathetic” and “ridiculous” attempts to shift blame and avoid responsibility.
“He said so many ridiculous and laughable things, that I gave up last night trying to prepare my closing,” Turner said. “If I wanted to address every stupid and unbelievable thing he said, we’d have to extend the trial another week.”
Turner also blasted attempts by the defense counsel to paint Hall as a caring person by bringing the children to his home after the shooting.
“Yeah, kids, I murdered your parents in front of you, but I’m here to help,” Turner said mockingly. “The idea that he cared anything for those kids is garbage.”
In closing, Turner told jurors that in the four years since the shooting, at no time has Berry Hall shown, “even the slightest hint of remorse.”
Following the closing arguments, two jurors were removed from the pool, bringing the number to 12. Those 12 were then retired to the jury room to begin their deliberations.
According to Judge Johnny Ray Harris, the jury could have chosen to find Berry Hall guilty of murder, guilty of murder (but with mental illness), guilty of wanton murder, guilty of wanton murder (but with mental illness), guilty of first-degree manslaughter, or guilty of first-degree manslaughter (but with mental illness), not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity.
There are also four counts of wanton endangerment with regard to the victims’ children who were in the home at the time of the shooting. The jury could have found Hall guilty of first-degree wanton endangerment, guilty of first-degree wanton endangerment (but with mental illness), not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity.
On Wednesday morning, Hall’s defense attorneys announced they had rested their case and were ready to proceed to closing arguments.
Court will reconvene Friday to hear sentencing evidence. Jurors are expected to retire for sentencing Monday, so as to avoid being sequestered over the weekend.