Cole's spiritual advisor questioned competency

Oct. 20—McALESTER, Okla. — Benjamin Cole's spiritual advisor questioned if the man was competent to be executed after engaging with him in the weeks prior to Cole being put to death Thursday.

Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood said Thursday outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester that Cole didn't show "much more mentality" than the 9-month-old child the man killed in 2002.

"One of the things that I have consistently said is you've got a situation where he was convicted of murdering his child; an obviously and unbelievably heinous crime," Hood said. "And I'm not sure that he has much more mentality than that child did."

Cole was convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 death of his 9-month-old daughter Brianna. Prosecutors said Cole was playing video games when his daughter started crying and he stopped her by bending her in half to break her spine that led to her death.

Hood said he ministered and engaged with Cole for some time prior to the Thursday execution.

"It's interesting that we're in this moment, and we realize what's going on, but I'm not sure that he realizes what's going on," Hood said prior to Cole's execution.

Cole was described by his attorneys as "a frail, 57-year-old man with a damaged and deteriorating brain, suffering from progressive and severe mental illness who poses no threat to anyone in any way" with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and manifests symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

Prosecutors disputed Cole's mental status, pointing to a report filed by a psychologist at the Oklahoma Forensic Center claiming Cole cooperated during a July 2022 evaluation. The report stated Cole knew why he was being executed and took responsibility for his daughter's death.

Hood is a pastor, theologian, activist, and writer from Little Rock, Arkansas who meets with death row inmates across the nation.

He said he believes Cole's execution shows how society's ethics "speak to what we value as a society."

"We say we care about the marginalized and the oppressed, but then we do things like this," Hood said. "It says a lot about who we are as a people."

Hood said in YouTube video he posted this week that Cole "had no idea why he called me" the first time they spoke on the phone.

Cole claimed that he was either going to be with the Messiah or was the Messiah on his execution date, and kept shouting bible verses at Hood saying that "everything was going to be fine," Hood said.

"I can speak from experience that this man is completely incompetent to be executed," Hood said in the video.

Hood was joined outside OSP with other death penalty abolitionists from the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Catholic Church, and other organizations.

Approximately a dozen death penalty abolitionists were outside OSP Thursday with a larger group outside the Governor's Mansion in Oklahoma City. The two anti-death penalty protests were linked through video conferencing with others joining from across the nation.

"Every person in Oklahoma is taking a life today," Hood said before speaking with others outside OSP. "And if we're going to keep on doing this, they at least need to realize what they're doing."

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