MCALESTER, Okla. (KFOR) – The sixth Oklahoma death row inmate has been executed at the state prison in McAlester in less than a year.
On Thursday morning, officials say 57-year-old Benjamin Cole was put to death by lethal injection.
Time of death was 10:22 a.m.
Officials say the execution did not have any complications.
Media witnesses say his last words were spoken softly and he offered up a prayer for the state and the nation.
His last words lasted approximately two minutes and seemed to be a stream of consciousness and had a religious theme according to KFOR’s Katelyn Ogle.
Cole was convicted and sentenced to death for killing his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna Cole.
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.
Cole’s attorneys have not disputed that he killed the infant, but they say he is severely mentally ill and that his brain damage from untreated paranoid schizophrenia has worsened while in prison.
“No execution should proceed until a court has heard expert testimony and carefully considered all the evidence of Ben Cole’s mental state to determine whether or not he is competent to execute,” said Emma Rolls, one of Mr. Cole’s attorneys.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office says an independent evaluator found Cole is competent enough to be executed.
In early October, the Pittsburg County District Court determined not enough evidence was presented to warrant competency proceedings.
Cole was denied clemency on Sept. 27, 2022.
On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court denied his attorneys’ appeal request.
Cole’s execution is the sixth since Oklahoma resumed carrying out the death penalty in October 2021.
“Benjamin Cole was a person with serious mental illness whose schizophrenia and brain damage went undiagnosed and untreated for many years, eventually leading to the tragic crime for which he was executed. 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.
“It is unconscionable that the State denied Ben a competency trial. Ben lacked a rational understanding of why Oklahoma took his life today. As Oklahoma proceeds with its relentless march to execute one mentally ill, traumatized man after another, we should pause to ask whether this is really who we are, and who we want to be.”Tom Hird, attorney for Benjamin Cole
“The State’s execution of Benjamin Cole was carried out with zero complications at 10:22 this morning, almost 20 years after he took the life of his 9 month old daughter Brianna,” said Attorney General John O’Connor. “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.”
Two more inmates are scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma this year:
- Richard Fairchild in the death of 3-year-old Adam Broomhall – November 17, 2022
- John Hanson in the deaths of Mary Bowles and Jerald Thurman – December 15, 2022
Fairchild was denied clemency by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Oct. 12.
Hanson’s clemency hearing will take place Nov. 9.
Scott Eizember’s execution in the deaths of A.J. and Patsy Cantrell is set for January, 12, 2023.
His clemency hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7.