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Death Row Inmate Denied Clemency

24-Aug-2015

As August draws to a close, the execution dates draw nearer for three Oklahoma death row inmates scheduled to die in September and October. One of those inmates has just had his request for clemency denied. Another's pending execution has meant death threats for the state's governor.

Last week, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board refused to recommend clemency for Benjamin Robert Cole, 50. Cole, who had previously been convicted of child abuse involving a 6-month-old son, was convicted of murdering his 9-month-old daughter in 2002. In that case, the infant was crying and fussy while her father was playing video games. He grabbed her by her feet and jerked them toward her head in an attempt to flip her over, and then went back to his game. When his wife came in to check on the baby, she found her in distress and turning blue. Cole did not mention to paramedics that he had touched the child until after medical personnel discovered that the force of the injury had severed her spine and torn her aorta.

Although Cole was sentenced to death, his attorneys were seeking clemency because of the inmate's deteriorating mental health. A forensic psychiatrist testified that the man has brain lesions and that his mental health has become progressively worse as a result. He testified that Cole's condition has progressed to the point that he is often unresponsive. Cole's attorney, in pleading for clemency, told the parole board, “It is wrong to kill mentally ill people. It is uncivilized, and it is inhumane."

In considering the matter, three members of the board voted to deny clemency; two voted in favor of clemency.

Despite the denial of clemency, the matter of Cole's mental competency to face the death penalty is being considered by a Pittsburgh County judge. Although Cole's execution is scheduled for October 7, it will not proceed until the judge rules in that case.

Oklahoma's first execution since the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the state's lethal injection protocol is scheduled for September 16. In that case, Richard Eugene Glossip is scheduled for execution, and Governor Mary Fallin has said she will not commute his sentence. Glossip maintains his innocence in the killing of his employer, and his supporters note that the only evidence connecting him to the murder is the testimony of the actual killer, who said that Glossip hired him to kill the man. Justin Sneed was given life in prison for killing Barry Van Treese, and Glossip was sentenced to die.

Although Glossip's case has gained the attention of actress Susan Sarandon and nun Sister Helen Prejean (whom Sarandon portrayed in the film Dead Man Walking), Governor Fallin maintains, "Richard Glossip has been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by two juries. His conviction and death sentence have been reviewed and upheld by four courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. . . . The state of Oklahoma is prepared to hold him accountable for his crimes and move forward with his scheduled execution.” 

Fallin has been called out publicly by Sarandon and Prejean, and she has received death threats for her stance against commuting or delaying Glossip's execution.

 



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