MCALESTER, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma has executed its 6th death-row inmate since the state resumed executions. Benjamin Cole was put to death Thursday morning at 10:22 a.m.
“He should have been executed many years ago,” said Donna Daniel, the victim’s aunt.
“Because, 20 years? Give me a break,” said Dr. Brian Young, the victim’s uncle.
Baby Brianna Cole’s family said they felt relieved Thursday, minutes after Cole was put to death at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
“The State’s execution of Benjamin Cole was carried out with zero complications,” Attorney General John O’Connor said in a statement. “Justice is now served for Brianna Cole and the people of Oklahoma. Nothing can fill the void experienced by the loss of a loved one and this does not bring Brianna back to her family. Our hearts and prayers are with them.”
The crime stems back to 2002 in Claremore. Cole told investigators he was trying to get the 9-month-old to stop crying, by forcibly bending her backwards.
He snapped her spine five days before Christmas.
“Brianna cried and interrupted his video game, and he killed her. That’s the whole reason she’s dead. And she had been abused from him before the coroner’s autopsy report,” said Daniel. “She died a horrific death and he gets off easy and gets to get a little injection in his arm and go to sleep.”
Cole’s attorney claimed the 57-year-old had been suffering from untreated paranoid schizophrenia.
“Over his years on death row, Ben slipped into a world of delusion and darkness. Although I represented him for many years, he was often unable to interact with my colleagues and me in any meaningful way. As Ben’s physical health deteriorated along with his mind, he became progressively more detached from reality, refusing to leave his cell, moving little and with difficulty, and rarely speaking to anyone,” said Cole’s attorney, Tom Hird in a statement. “It is unconscionable that the State denied Ben a competency trial. Ben lacked a rational understanding of why Oklahoma took his life today.”
“He has thoughts that he is the Messiah. He has thoughts that he is going to resurrect in three days,” said Reverend Dr. Jeff Hood, Cole’s spiritual advisor.
Cole denied his right to having the reverend in the room with him during the execution.
News 4 was chosen to witness Cole’s final moments in the execution chambers. He also declined a special last meal, and chose the same meal as the rest of the inmates.
The curtain, that separates the witnesses from the inmate, rose at 10:04 am.
Cole used the full two minutes to say a prayer with his eyes closed.
“His prayer did seem more like a stream of consciousness and kind of rambling on at times,” said News 4’s Katelyn Ogle during the press conference. “He was very raspy and sometimes it was almost a whisper, so it was very hard to get all the words.”
“’The day of the Lord is at hand,’” said Sean Murphy, with the Associated Press, as he read some of Cole’s final words. “Choose Jesus while you still can.”
“’I pray that you receive my spirit, as I forgive everyone that I have done wrong,’ which did not make much sense,” said Nolan Clay, with the Oklahoman.
Cole also said things like “Keep your eyes peeled for Jesus,” “The Lord Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior.” He also said a prayer for the state and country.
After Cole’s prayer, officials asked if he was finished.
That’s when Cole said his final words, “Yes, sir.”
As mentioned, there had been previous claims that Cole had trouble speaking and communicating coherently. His attorneys claimed Cole had become “largely catatonic.”
“It just proved that he’s been faking this all along,” said Daniel.
“He knew exactly what he was doing the whole time,” Dr. Young. “He had everybody fooled, or he thought he had everybody fooled. And I didn’t think he would even say anything.”
The timeline of Cole’s execution:
- At 10:07 a.m., Cole’s eyes opened.
- At 10:08 a.m. he yawned. His eyes and mouth remained open for the rest of the execution.
- At 10:10 a.m., Cole appeared to be taking short and heavy breaths.
- Around 10:13-14 a.m., he appeared to stop breathing.
- At 10:14 a.m., his fingers that had stayed motionless twitched slightly.
- At 10:22 a.m., Cole was pronounced dead.
“This is ‘Justice for Brianna Day,’” said Dr. Young.
Dr. Young said he plans to speak to legislators, to find a way to speed up the death penalty process.
Daniel said she wished more of the media attention focused on Brianna, rather than Cole.