OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Attorneys for a death row inmate are asking the court for a competency hearing.
On December 20, 2002, Benjamin Cole told investigators that he was trying to get his 9-month-old daughter to stop crying when he grabbed the baby by the ankles and pushed her legs toward her head until she flipped over.
The baby’s spine was snapped in half and her aorta was completely torn through, according to investigators.
For years, Cole’s attorneys have said that he has suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia, and his competency has been called into question.
According to new court documents, Cole’s condition has deteriorated significantly while on death row.
“Mr. Cole has been diagnosed by multiple medical professionals with a deteriorating course of paranoid schizophrenia, and has well-documented and significant brain damage, including a sizable lesion in a region of his brain associated with schizophrenia. Documentation of Mr. Cole’s aberrant behavior and incongruent thought processes began early on in his case, and additional evidence from qualified experts has accumulated over the course of the litigation,” the petition states.
It goes on to say that experts and prison staff have seen his symptoms of schizophrenia, but that Cole has not received any form of treatment for his condition.
His attorneys say his condition has been present throughout his case, saying that “Cole’s lack of interest in his case, his hyper-religiosity, and his fixed delusional thinking that kept him from caring about or assisting in his defense.”
Cole’s attorneys say he is “largely catatonic, rarely leaves his cell, cannot care for his basic hygiene, and can no longer walk.”
During an evaluation in May, Dr. David Hough said Cole “was not able to engage in conversation.” Instead, he made “only spontaneous, disconnected verbalizations.”
As a result, Dr. Hough believes that Cole suffers from severe and chronic schizophrenia with catatonia.
On Monday, Cole’s attorneys filed a petition for writ of mandamus, asking the District Court of Pittsburg County to order a competency hearing in his case.
During an appeal in 2015, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Cole was showing minor signs of mental illness but that he was still competent for execution.
“Even though Petitioner was shown minor signs of mental illness, the record reveals that Petitioner’s mental state is not so distorted by delusions or mental illness that his awareness of the crime and punishment has little or no relation to the understanding of those concepts shared by the community as a whole. Petitioner’s lengthy conversations with respondent exhibit the mental state requisite for competence to be executed,” the court wrote in its ruling.
Cole is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 20, 2022.