OK-CADP to hold “Don’t Kill For Me” protest of the scheduled execution of death row prisoner Benjamin Cole
Oklahoma City — On Thursday, October 20, the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) is asking the public to join them at the Benjamin Robert Cole “Don’t Kill for Me” demonstration in protest of his scheduled execution that morning at 10 a.m.
The demonstration will begin at 9 a.m. in front of the Governor’s Mansion, at 820 NE 23rd Street at Phillips Avenue in Oklahoma City.
Participants will begin a silent vigil at 10:00 a.m. until notice of a stay of execution is received or the execution is carried out.
The vigil will conclude with a circle prayer. The vigil will be canceled if the execution is postponed or canceled.
On September 27, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended denying clemency to Benjamin Cole by a vote of 4-1.
The clemency petition describes Mr. Cole 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.” (Petition p. 1) Mr. Cole has a growing lesion on his brain in an area associated with paranoid schizophrenia and also manifests symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
He also has been diagnosed with brain damage likely resulting from the many serious head injuries he suffered during his childhood and early adulthood.
“[Benjamin Cole] is wheelchair bound, much of the time catatonic, and has been isolated on [death row] for so many years (in what amounts to solitary confinement) that he rarely speaks to anyone.” (p. 1)
Mr. Cole’s severe mental illness, including paranoid schizophrenia and brain damage, is long-standing and extensively documented. His condition has deteriorated to the point that he is largely catatonic, cannot manage his own basic hygiene, and crawls on the cell floor if without a wheelchair. He barely communicates with prison staff or his own attorneys, going days at a time without speaking to anyone.
Both the United States Constitution and Oklahoma law forbid the execution of a person who is mentally incompetent. Oklahoma tasks the warden of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary with initiating competency proceedings if he has objectively good reason to believe the condemned prisoner is not competent to be executed.
In light of Mr. Cole’s mental illness and physical debilitation, the clemency petition asked the Board and the Governor to grant him clemency and commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
“Ben Cole is no longer capable of communicating with his attorneys and is no longer capable of recognizing that he is being punished,” said Rev. Don Heath, OK-CADP chair.
“He will be taken into the execution chamber on a wheelchair and lifted by six men onto a gurney, where he will be strapped down so that poison can be injected into his body. The State should allow him to live out the rest of his natural life in prison and give him the treatment for his mental illness that he so desperately needs.”
Mr. Cole’s lawyers filed an application for a stay with the US Supreme Court, but that was denied on Wednesday, October 19.
Wednesday afternoon and evening petition signatures seeking to save Cole’s life were delivered to the governor’s office. Later in the evening, a “Visibility Action” was set across from the governor’s mansion.
On Thursday at 9 a.m., a “Visibility Action” was set for the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
In a separate proceeding, Richard Fairchild’s execution has been set for November 17.