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Jury finds man convicted of beheading coworker mentally fit to face the death penalty

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NORMAN, Okla. - A jury has unanimously determined a convicted murderer was not 'intellectually disabled,' meaning he could still face the death penalty.

Alton Nolen, 33, was convicted of first-degree murder for beheading his coworker Colleen Hufford inside Vaughan Foods. He also stabbed another coworker, Traci Johnson, but she survived the September 2014 attack.

Traci Johnson (left), Colleen Hufford (right); Photos courtesy of Facebook and GoFundMe

During the trial, two mental health experts called by the defense testified in court Nolen was suffering from schizophrenia and was “mentally insane” during the time of the offense.

In contrast, two other psychologists called by the state as rebuttal witnesses testified in court they did not believe Nolen suffered from a mental illness.

Ultimately, the jury found Nolen guilty of first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon and four counts of assault.

After being found guilty, the jury was tasked with determining if Nolen was mentally competent to face the death penalty.

Alton Nolen

"Mentally retarded? Really?" asked Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn during closing arguments. "You don't just become mentally retarded when you're facing the death penalty."

A driving point of Mashburn's closing argument were the number of errors on an IQ testing given to Nolen and conducted by Dr. Anita Jeanne Russell, psychologist and expert witness for the defense.

State prosecutors presented six witnesses in the portion of trial, including neuropsychologist Dr. Jarrod Steffan who testified Tuesday he noted six errors on Russell's testings. This includes errors in calculation and "discontinuing" portions prematurely.

It took the jury less than an hour to reach a unanimous decision Nolen was not intellectually disabled.

Under Tuesday's verdict, Nolen is still eligible for the death penalty as punishment.

The trial resumes Wednesday, when jurors will continue to decide the formal punishment. State prosecutors said a decision could be reached by Thursday morning at the latest.

The possible punishment options include: life with parole, life without parole and death.