Penalty trial against man convicted of beheading coworker adjourned until next week

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NORMAN, Okla. - The penalty trial against a man convicted of beheading his coworker is adjourned until Tuesday.

Alton Nolen, 33, is facing the death penalty for beheading his coworker, Colleen Hufford, inside Vaughan Foods in September 2014. He has already been sentenced on assault crimes related to stabbing Traci Johnson during the same incident. Jurors have been tasked with first determining whether or not Nolen is intellectually disabled.

According to Cleveland County DA Greg Mashburn, information came up during expert testimony that was new to both legal counsels which caused the delay in testimony.

“This morning [Friday] we even had some more information come up,” explained Mashburn. “Both sides wanted a chance to look at that, see how it may or not affect our case, both sides' cases, before we really go in front of the jury.”

The trial first hit a legal snag Thursday after Dr. Jarrod Steffan, a neuropsychologist and expert witness for the state, testified he had concerns over errors in testing conducted on Nolen by Dr. Anita Jeanne Russell. The Tulsa-based psychologist testified for the defense.

Mashburn said delays in testimony are fairly common in death penalty cases.

“What you don't want to happen is rush this part especially because years down the road, the court of appeals is looking at it, and they may say we were in a rush to get it down and nobody wants to have to try this case again,” he said.

The state plans to present its final two expert witnesses Tuesday before the jury goes into deliberation on the intellectual disability portion. If he is found to have an intellectual disability, he will not be eligible for the death penalty. Mashburn says they hope to reach a complete verdict by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning at the latest.

The three possible punishment options for Nolen as of Friday: life without parole, life with parole, and the death penalty.

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