A convicted killer in Oklahoma was executed Thursday despite his lawyers arguing he was mentally ill and unaware of his imminent death.
Benjamin Cole, 57, was pronounced dead at 10:22 a.m. local time at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, attorney Tom Hird told The Post.
Cole was sentenced to death in 2004 for the Dec. 20, 2002, murder of his 9-month-old daughter. CNN reported after the baby’s cries interrupted Cole’s video game, he broke her spine.
Cole’s attorneys petitioned for clemency last month, arguing he suffered severe paranoid schizophrenia and brain damage related to trauma and exposure to drugs and alcohol. Confined to a wheelchair, he lived in what one clinical psychologist described as his own “mental universe.”
“Over his years on death row, Ben slipped into a world of delusion and darkness,” Hird told The Post Thursday.
“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.”
A state panel rejected Cole’s clemency bid earlier this month, and a district court judge agreed he was competent to be executed. Cole’s lawyers subsequently filed a last-minute appeal, which was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday.
Hird called the decision to move forward with the execution “unconscionable,” insisting Cole “lacked a rational understanding of why Oklahoma took his life today. “
Cole’s execution is the sixth in Oklahoma since it resumed enforcing the death penalty in October 2021. KJRH reported his death is one of several scheduled to take place before February 2023.
“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,” Hird warned.
Hird’s concerns were echoed by Brett Farley, chair of Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
Speaking to The Post ahead of the execution Thursday morning, Farley called Cole’s sentence “a misguided attempt at justice.”
Citing a 2017 report by the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, Farley said the state’s process is “riddled with errors and inconsistencies.”
“This demands change, it demands reform,” he insisted.
Cole’s death comes less than a week after the public reacted in anger when convicted Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to life in prison rather than death.
“This animal deserves to die,” said Mike Schulman, whose son, geography teacher Scott Beigel, was one of the 17 victims killed on Feb. 14, 2018.
“What it says to me, what it says to my family, what it says to the other families is that [Cruz’s] life meant more than the 17 that were murdered,” Debra Hixon, wife of slain athletic director Christopher Hixon, said after the verdict.