Oklahoma baby killer refused clemency despite mental illness claims

Oklahoma’s Pardons and Parole Board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to deny clemency to confessed baby killer Benjamin Cole despite pleas for clemency from his attorneys on grounds of mental illness.

Cole, 57, is due to be executed by lethal injection on October 20 for murder his daughter five days before Christmas in 2002 in Claremore.

Brianna Cole was almost 9 months old. Cole bent her back in her crib when she started crying, breaking her spine and tearing her aorta. He then went back to playing a Nintendo video game, “007”.

“I can’t understand how a human could do what this man did to this baby,” said his uncle, Dr. Bryan Young of Fort Gibson. “How could a human do that to a baby? The mind is beyond me.”

At the clemency hearing, the dispute was whether Cole was really mentally ill.

His lawyers said that since his trial he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had increasing brain damage. They said he rarely spoke to anyone, believed rock bands texted him, didn’t shower and refused medical treatment for a painful condition.

Cole is being held at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. On death row, he remained in his cell, hoarded food and religious materials and kept the lights off at all times, the lawyers said.

Six guards had to carry him on a stretcher to a special cell next to the execution chamber this month because he could not roll his wheelchair to the elevator, the official was told. advice.

At the trial, he stared for hours at a Bible, the council was also told. He wanted to invite the Korn guitarist to attend his originally scheduled execution in 2015, and he predicted that he would simply disappear once strapped to the execution table.

“We have known Benjamin for a long time,” said attorney Tom Hird. “And we’ve seen him go a little further downhill, downhill, worse and worse. We’ve seen the decline. He’s not faking it. He’s not some kind of mastermind.”

Psychologist says Benjamin Cole has no significant signs of mental illness

State attorneys acknowledged that Cole was frail, had a brain injury and showed signs of mental illness. However, they called him a manipulator and said he had been diagnosed before trial as having only a personality disorder. They told the council that he regularly spoke to correctional officers who delivered canteen items to him.

State prosecutors provided the board with a report from a state forensic psychologist who evaluated Cole in July at the Oklahoma Forensic Center in Vinita. That psychologist, Scott Orth, reported that Cole showed no substantial signs of hallucinations, mental illness, or intellectual disability during their meeting.

The psychologist noted that Cole has repeatedly affirmed a belief that people must be “right with Jesus” because there is little time left for humanity. He described Cole’s discussion of religion as frankly largely consistent with the beliefs of millions of individuals “and not the product of legally defined mental illness”.

State prosecutors also told the parole board that Cole abused his other children. He went to jail in California for abusing a son, including burning the baby’s eyelid with a cigarette.

Cole chose not to speak to the board himself via video.

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor applauds parole board decision

Tuesday’s decision means Governor Kevin Stitt cannot change Cole’s death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In Oklahoma, a governor can commute a death row inmate’s sentence only if the board recommends clemency.

Attorney General John O’Connor said he was grateful the council refused clemency. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the other members of Brianna’s family,” the attorney general said.

Cole could still avoid execution if a Pittsburg County judge orders a trial for skill. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.

“The evidence of Mr. Cole’s serious mental illness presented at today’s clemency hearing reinforces the need for a full trial on his jurisdiction,” Hird said after the parole board’s vote . “He is so weakened that he does not rationally understand why the state intends to execute him and could not participate in the clemency process.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits states from executing death row inmates driven insane.

Cole’s execution would at least be stayed for months if a judge ordered a trial for jurisdiction. He would not be executed if a jury found he was now insane.

Cole was once days away from being put to death by lethal injection when the executions were called off due to a drug medley. A doctor discovered that the deadly wrong drug had been delivered for a scheduled execution on September 30, 2015, for death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Oklahoma’s Pardons and Parole Board voted 3-2 in 2015 to deny Cole clemency. The composition of the board has since changed. Cole also did not speak to the board at that time.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma death row inmate Benjamin Cole refused clemency

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