A Floyd County jury recommended two life sentences without the possibility of parole as well as 20 years — all to run consecutively — for Berry Hall on Thursday, the same day that jury found him guilty of murdering Abbott residents Alan and Lisa Tackett in 2008.
It marked the second time that Hall was given a life sentence for these murders. After an extensive trial in 2012, a jury found him guilty in the murders and recommended a life sentence, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling last year on the grounds that photos shared with the jury were too graphic.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Brent Turner said his team showed half the number of crime scene photos in the second trial last week. He said he’s pleased that the jury recommended a harsher sentence for Hall.
“If anything, I think this is a demonstration of what a terrible decision the Supreme Court made when they sent the case back,” Turner said. “They claimed that there were too many graphic photos and sent it back, even though the jury was allowed to see plenty of other graphic photos. ... We come back, years later, put the family through all of this again, put the jury through all of this again, and put on the same case with literally half as many pictures. And they came back with a more harsh verdict.”
Hall testified on his own behalf, admitting on the stand that he shot and killed his niece, Lisa Tackett, 30, and her husband Alan Tackett, 46, at their home in Abbott on March 20, 2008. He claimed he “blacked out” that day and that it took him years to remember what happened. He blamed Prozac, a drug he was taking for depression, for making him have problems with anger.
In the sentencing phase of the case, Hall’s attorney Emma Jones brought his brother and a former co-worker to the stand to talk about what kind of person he was prior to the shooting. His brother described him as being “different” before the shooting, and his former co-worker said he couldn’t believe what happened when he heard news of the shooting. He described Hall as “quiet” and “kind.”
In closing, Jones asked the jury to consider those words and other mitigating factors in the case. She emphasized that Hall had no criminal record prior to the shooting. She asked the jury to give him a reason to hope.
“I think it’s been shown that Berry was an Eastern Kentucky family man, who went hunting and fishing, who took care of his wife and his children and worked really hard and did what he could,” she said. “And something — and we don’t know what. We don’t what happened. — but we know that he snapped and something happened to cause that.”
“Why I’m asking you to not consider the enhanced penalties is to give Mr. Hall a reason to maintain, to give him the hope that he will someday get to see his grandchildren,” Jones said. “And I know that, that’s selfish because we know Alan and Lisa Tackett might not get to see theirs. I know that, that’s hard, but to give Mr. Hall hope for the future so that he can become a better person, maintain his mental health, re-establish family ties which have been broken ... in these last 12 years.”
She said Hall has been incarcerated for 12 years and the murders were “completely out of his character.”
Turner told the jury, however, that Hall does not deserve hope.
“I ask you to consider Alan and Lisa Tackett,” he told them. “They’re dead. They’ll never come back. You can’t bring them back. There’s nothing you can do about that. There’s nothing of any of us can do about that. But you can do one thing. You can make sure that as long as they are dead and in the ground that this man is locked away until he’s there with them. That’s fair. Alan and Lisa’s suffering is over. They don’t have to deal with this anymore. I can’t say the same thing for the children.”
He explained how four children, all under the age of five, were in the home when their parents were killed.
“They’ve gone through grade school. They’ll go through high school. They’ll go through their teenage years. They’ll have first boyfriend and girlfriends. They’ll become adults some day and marry, have children of their own. They’ll grow old, and maybe have grandchildren,” Turner said. “And they’ll do all of this without the parents who gave them life, and the only memory of them that will ever be is what they experienced on that terrible day. The point I’m trying to get to is this: These children should never, ever have to worry in their lifetime about this man getting out and being on the street again. He’s done enough to them.”
Norita Collins, the sister of Alan Tackett, cried as Turner spoke.
After the jury presented its sentencing recommendation, Turner pledged to continue to speak on behalf of the children of Alan and Lisa Tackett.
“Life without parole is what we wanted. It’s what we had before. While we’re aggravated to have to go through it twice for no reason, we’ll do it two or three more times, if we have to, if they want to send it back,” Turner said. “As long as I’m here in this job I’ll try him as many times as I have to, to make sure he stays where he’s at because that’s where he belongs.”
Jones said the murders were a “tragedy” for both sides.
“This was a tragedy for both the Tackett and Hall families,” Jones said. “You have to respect the jury verdicts and what they’ve decided. We do have some appeal issues, so there will be another appeal, but I wish only the best for the Tackett children, especially.”
She emphasized something she told the jury.
“I really do believe in the power of redemption, and I hope for that for Mr. Hall,” she said.
Hall’s other attorney Attorney Garland Arnett submitted a motion to dismiss after the jury was retired Thursday — a motion that Jones described as a routine matter to preserve the right to file another appeal.
Arnett also argued that Kentucky law prohibits “more than a life sentence.” He said all sentences recommended by the jury should be consolidated into one sentence of life without parole.
Turner objected to the motion to dismiss.
Circuit Judge Johnny Ray Harris scheduled sentencing to be held on April 30.