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Jury Recommends Death Sentence in Moore Beheading Case


After Alton Nolen beheaded a co-worker and attempted to behead another at Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma, there was significant concern over his mental competency. Initially, Nolen attempted to plead guilty and asked to be sentenced to death, but a judge was not sure he was mentally competent to enter a guilty plea and refused to accept the plea pending a competency evaluation. When he was deemed competent, he refused to reiterate his guilty plea, and thus, the case went to trial.

Nolen was charged with first degree murder and multiple assault charges. His defense team argued that their client was not guilty by reason of insanity and claimed that Nolen was schizophrenic. However, earlier this month, a Cleveland County Jury found him guilty of all charges against him.

For the five assault charges of which Nolen was convicted, he was sentenced to three life terms plus 130 years (life sentences for three of the convictions, 75 years for the fourth, and 55 years for the fifth). However, before the jury could recommend the death penalty for the murder conviction, they had specific factors to consider.

First, the crime had to meet one or more of several "aggravating factors" in order to make the defendant eligible for the death penalty.

Cleveland County Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell presented four aggravating factors during closing arguments: whether the defendant had prior violent felonies, whether the defendant was a threat to society, whether the crime was heinous or cruel, and whether there were other people at grave risk of death.

Second, a defendant is not eligible for the death penalty if he or she is mentally retarded. When the insanity defense failed, jurors had to consider whether or not Nolen was intellectually disabled to the extent he could not legally be sentenced to death. During closing arguments

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn asked, "Mentally retarded? Really?" He further scoffed, "You don't just become mentally retarded when you're facing the death penalty."

In less than an hour, the jury determined that Nolen was not intellectually disabled. After deliberating nearly three hours, they recommended a death sentence for the murder of Colleen Hufford in 2014.

Formal sentencing is scheduled for December 15.



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