"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Monday, August 31, 2015

Oklahoma death row inmate mumbles incoherently during insanity hearing

Benjamin Cole
Benjamin Cole
Benjamin Robert Cole did not respond to most questions, as attorneys argues his mental state has deteriorated while imprisoned for 2002 murder of daughter

An Oklahoma man scheduled to die for killing his 9-month-old daughter mumbled about religion Friday during a hearing about his sanity, but only answered a few questions when testifying.

Attorneys for Benjamin Robert Cole don't think he's sane enough to be executed. They say the prison warden is violating a state law that requires her to notify the local district attorney when an inmate has become insane.

Cole was in a wheelchair during the hearing in a Pittsburg County courtroom in McAlester, where Cole is being housed at the Oklahoma state penitentiary. The 50-year-old with long hair and a graying beard mostly mumbled and appeared to have his eyes closed as he sat slumped over while testifying.

He didn't respond to most of the questions.

When District Judge James Bland asked Cole why he was being executed, the inmate responded: "Go home. Go home to be with Jesus."

Cole, of Claremore, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on 7 October. He was convicted of 1st-degree murder in Rogers County for the 2002 killing of his daughter, Brianna Cole, whose spine was broken and her aorta torn after she was forcefully bent backward.

Cole has not denied killing the child.

An investigator for the public defender's office who interviewed Cole several times, said he mostly talks about scriptures and his "ministry", which she said she doesn't understand.

"He always talks about the end times and various messages the Lord has given him," investigator Julie Gardner said.

But Warden Anita Trammell said she's been able to converse with Cole on numerous occasions and that he understands why he's being executed.

"When I've pulled him out to talk to him, he's engaged in conversation," Trammell said.

In a court filing, though, federal public defender Susan Otto wrote: "Mr Cole's condition has deteriorated steadily since his conviction." The US supreme court has held that executing an insane person is unconstitutional.

Otto says Cole's ability to participate in his defense has been in question since the inception of the case, and she told the state's pardon and parole board last week during a clemency hearing that Cole once went 2 years without showering or leaving his cell.

A forensic psychiatrist hired by Cole's attorneys, Dr Raphael Morris, testified at Cole's clemency hearing that Cole sat before him in a catatonic state during an hourlong visit at the penitentiary and didn't make eye contact or utter a single word.

The pardon and parole board voted 3-2 against recommending clemency to the governor, who could only have granted clemency with a recommendation from the board.

But even a clemency recommendation would have been no guarantee that Governor Mary Fallin would have spared his life.

The board voted 4-1 to recommend clemency for death row inmate Garry Allen, but Fallin still rejected the recommendation and said his execution should proceed. Allen, who suffered a brain injury after being shot in the head during his arrest, appeared confused during his 2012 execution and seemed startled when a prison official announced the start of the lethal injection.

Source: The Guardian, August 28, 2015

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