Oklahoma executed inmate Benjamin Cole on Thursday morning despite claims from his attorneys that he had been severely mentally ill. Cole was pronounced dead at 10:22am at Oklahoma’s state penitentiary in McAlester, per the AP. He was the sixth Oklahoma inmate to be put to death since the state resumed executions in October 2021. Cole delivered a sometimes rambling, two-minute prayer while strapped to the gurney. "Choose Jesus while you still can," he said. The first of the three lethal execution drugs began to flow at 10:06, and Cole was declared unconscious at 10:12.
Attorneys for Cole did not dispute that he killed his infant daughter, 9-month-old Brianna Cole, by forcibly bending her backward, but they argued that Cole was mentally ill and that he had a growing lesion on his brain that had worsened in recent years. Cole refused medical attention and ignored his personal hygiene, hoarding food and living in a darkened cell with little to no communication with staff or fellow prisoners, his attorneys told the state’s Pardon and Parole Board last month during a clemency hearing. The panel voted 4-1 to deny clemency, and a district judge earlier this month determined Cole was competent to be executed.
“Ben lacked a rational understanding of why Oklahoma took his life today," Cole's attorney Tom Hird said after the execution. "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.” Two last-minute appeals filed with the US.Supreme Court seeking to halt his execution were rejected. Two members of Brianna Cole's family, maternal aunt Donna Daniel and uncle Bryan Young, who witnessed the execution, said they were disappointed it took so long for Cole's execution to be carried out. "We should not have to wait 20 years for a 9-month-old baby to get justice," said Young. (Read more capital punishment stories.)