Sentencing phase for beheading trial behind by half day due to legal “snag”

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NORMAN, Okla. - The sentencing phase for a man convicted of beheading a coworker has been delayed by a half day because of a legal "snag."

Judge Lori Walkley adjourned court in the trial of Alton Nolen at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. This will give the defense team more time with Dr. Jarrod Steffan, a neuropsychologist and expert witness presented by state prosecutors.

Nolen, 33, is facing the death penalty for beheading his coworker, Colleen Hufford, in September 2014 inside Vaughan Foods. The jury has been tasked with determining whether or not Nolen is intellectually disabled before moving forward with the sentencing phase. If he is, he cannot be sentenced to death.

Prior to adjourning Thursday, Steffan told the court he was concerned over testing conducted by Dr. Anita Jeanne Russell prior to her testimony on Nolen's intelligence. She is a Tulsa-based psychologist who testified for the defense for Phases 1 & 2 of the case.

According to Steffan, concerns included test scoring and effort put forth by Nolen.

The state was able to complete four witness testimonies Thursday, most were from Nolen's childhood.

"At different times had been on like sports teams with the defendants and had been like administrators at the school," said Cleveland County DA Greg Mashburn. "If you'll remember, there was testimony from people that he grew up with that had some different opinions on him on what he was like. So, this was just a jury, an overall picture of what he was like."

Even with the early end Thursday, Mashburn said there's a chance the jury will go into deliberation Friday. The state also plans to bring psychologist Dr. Shawn Roberson to the stand.

"If so and they were to find that he's not intellectually disabled, then we would do the punishment phase on the murder count probably Tuesday and Wednesday of next week," Mashburn said.

When asked for a comment, defense attorney Mitch Solomon told News 4 it was "not appropriate" to make one at this time.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Friday.

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