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Jurors may reach decision Thursday on punishment for man convicted of beheading coworker

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NORMAN, Okla. - The state and defense have delivered closing arguments in the final stage of a trial against a man convicted of beheading his coworker.

Alton Nolen, 33, is facing the death penalty for beheading his former coworker, Colleen Hufford, three years ago inside Vaughan Foods. He has already been handed three life sentences plus 130 years combined on assault charges alone for stabbing Traci Johnson and charging at other workers during the September 2014 workplace attack.

Hufford died from her injuries, but Johnson survived. Nolen justified his actions to investigators in 2014 by claiming he was a practicing Muslim and believed his actions were correct by the Quran.

During closing arguments Thursday, assistant DA Susan Caswell highlighted the four aggravating factors the state must prove in a capital punishment case: prior violent felonies, being a threat to society, whether the crime was heinous or cruel and whether there were other people at grave risk of death.

"This was a decisive act not driven by a mental illness," Caswell said. "I submit to you he would do it again in a heartbeat."

The defense's closing arguments were delivered by attorney Shea Smith, who urged the jury to consider Nolen as a 'complete' person, not just his current state. One of the mitigating circumstances presented by the defense include Nolen's family history of illness and his behavior as a child.

The circumstances, according to Shea, do not have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. They are factors presented for the jury to consider.

"You never ever have to give the death penalty," Smith said. "The law of Oklahoma is always satisfied with a verdict less than death."

Nolen is facing three possible sentences for murdering Hufford: life with parole, life without parole or the death penalty.

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