OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has denied clemency for a death row inmate.
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.
Recently, his attorneys have claimed that 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.
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.”
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for Cole by a vote of 4-1.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor says Cole is not nearly as mentally impaired as his attorneys claim.
“Brianna Victoria Cole was just nine months old when she was brutally murdered at the hands of her own father, Benjamin Cole, Sr., on December 20, 2002, when her cries interrupted Cole’s video game. Cole, annoyed by Brianna’s crying and fussing, grabbed Brianna by the ankles, forcefully pushed her ankles toward her head, bent her back in half, and flipped her over. Cole then went back to his video game and left Brianna to die in agony in her crib.
Brianna’s autopsy revealed her spine had been ‘snapped in half and her abdominal aorta had been completely torn through due to non-accidental stretching.’ Ultimately, an Oklahoma jury decided that death was the only just and appropriate punishment for the 2002 heinous murder of innocent Brianna. The conviction and sentence were affirmed after years of thorough reviews by the appellate courts.
Although his attorneys claim Cole is mentally ill to the point of catatonia, the fact is that Cole fully cooperated with a mental evaluation in July of this year. The evaluator, who was not hired by Cole or the State, found Cole to be competent to be executed and that ‘Mr. Cole does not currently evidence any substantial, overt signs of mental illness, intellectual impairment, and/or neurocognitive impairment.’
I am grateful that the Board denied Cole’s request for executive clemency. Our thoughts and prayers are with the other members of Brianna’s family.”Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor
A Pittsburg County judge will determine whether to order a competency trial for Cole on Sept. 30.
“The evidence of Mr. Cole’s severe mental illness presented during today’s clemency hearing reinforces the need for a full trial on his competency,” said Tom Hird, one of Mr. Cole’s attorneys. “He is so impaired that he does not rationally understand why the State intends to execute him and was unable to participate in the clemency proceedings.”
Cole is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 20, 2022.