State advances toward execution of two death row inmates whose mental competency is questioned
Oklahoma City –– The state government continues to advance toward the execution of two death row inmates whose competency to face execution has been cast into doubt by defense attorneys.
The Richard Fairchild Case
On Wednesday (October 12), a majority of the state Pardon & Parole Board voted against a clemency petition filed for Richard Fairchild, despite hearing evidence he is “profoundly impaired by “schizoaffective disorder and a degenerative brain disease.”
As things now stand, Fairchild will be executed on November 17.
In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK.com, one of Fairchild’s attorneys, Emma Rolls, said, “As Richard Fairchild’s brain has deteriorated, he has descended into psychosis, a fact well-documented in his prison records. Yet despite having lost touch with reality, Richard remains remorseful for his crime and continues to have an unblemished prison record. There is no principled reason for Oklahoma to execute him.”
An analysis from Fairchild’s defense team, provided to this reporter, recounted, “Richard Fairchild was raised in an extremely abusive home riddled by alcohol and substance abuse. He has significant brain damage due to the repeated head trauma he received as an amateur, teenage boxer. Evidence of organic brain damage – a factor the United States Supreme Court has deemed crucial in a death penalty case – was never explored or presented by Mr. Fairchild’s attorneys at trial.”
In the jury trial, Fairchild’s attorney told jurors Fairchild was “a mean drunk.”
Rolls and her colleagues counter: “Had counsel conducted a reasonable investigation into Mr. Fairchild’s history of organic brain damage, the jurors would have understood that frontal lobe brain damage is directly related to chronic impulse control issues – an issue directly related to the crime.
“Noteworthy is the fact that trial counsel’s failure in presenting this information was due in part to counsel’s own substance abuse issues, which ultimately resulted in his suspension from the practice of law years later.”
His present lawyer explains – concerning the earlier appellate process – that Fairchild’s attorney at the time “informed the state court that counsel did not have the resources or time to conduct a thorough review into trial counsel’s failings. Despite these critical limitations, Mr. Fairchild’s inadequate legal process proceeded and procedurally prevented relevant claims from being heard by subsequent courts.”
In a historic analysis of problems in the system of capital punishment in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission identified such funding and process issues within the justice system as raising “serious difficulties to these organizations’ capacity to comport with national standards for capital cases. …”
Rolls, in her recent comments sent to CapitolBeatOK.com, said, “Mr. Fairchild is now suffering from the effects of major mental illness, namely schizoaffective disorder, leaving him tortured with continued delusions. His psychosis has been confirmed over the course of years by Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections and often goes untreated.”
The denied clemency petition for Fairchild can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JIXABujPBYfAhS-sO76a6rkBflnGMtuK/view
In related news, in a statement provided to CapitolBeatOK.com, the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) referenced the horror inflicted upon the victim of Fairchild’s crime.
Rev. Don Heath, OK-CADP chair, made the following statement:
“The physical abuse that Richard Fairchild inflicted upon three-year-old Adam Broomhall shocks our conscience. We do not condone his behavior. Since this horrific crime, Mr. Fairchild has been a model prisoner and repeatedly expressed remorse for the killing of Adam Broomhall. He has served 29 years in prison for his crime. He is now a brain-damaged 62-year-old man who is weak and vulnerable. He is still a beloved child of God.
“The humane action for the State to take would be to provide Mr. Fairchild with the treatment that he has so desperately needed for the last 30 years and help him live out the rest of his days peacefully in prison or in a mental institution.
“Regrettably, the Pardon and Parole Board chose instead to respond to violence with more violence. Mr. Fairchild held Adam Broomhall against a heater and beat him. The State will strap Mr. Fairchild to a gurney and fill his body with poison. This is not justice – it is retribution.”
Conservative group opposes Benjamin Cole’s sentence, says ‘executing defendants with severe mental illness is morally wrong’
Both before the Pardon & Parole Board and in an effort to secure a competency hearing, attorneys for death row inmate Benjamin Cole were unsuccessful in efforts to prevent his execution, which is set for October 20.
Two decades ago, Cole killed his own infant child, Brianna, turning her upside down in rage when her crying interrupted his video game-playing.
After a Pittsburg County District Court rejected the request for a competency hearing, the group Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty circulated a statement to CapitolBeatOK.com and other news organizations.
The group said:
“As conservatives, we believe government executing defendants with severe mental illness is morally wrong, particularly as our society grows more aware of the profound challenges faced by these individuals, including misdiagnosis and inability to obtain appropriate treatment.
“This is why GOP-led states such as Ohio and Kentucky have eliminated capital punishment for those people and Republican legislators in states like Florida, South Dakota, Tennessee, and more have introduced bills to do so. These laws recognize that people with serious mental illness lack the extreme moral culpability required to justify capital punishment.”
The statement from the organization, which is a project of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, continued: “In the case of Ben Cole — a man who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and a lesion on his brain who is scheduled to be executed on October 20th — we hope that a court or the Governor will intervene to ensure a competency trial happens before any execution moves forward.”
Biographical Note and Disclosure: Patrick B. McGuigan is Publisher, Editor and Founder of CapitolBeatok.com, an independent, non-partisan and locally-managed news service based in Oklahoma City. He is the author of three books and co-editor of seven, including ‘Crime and Punishment in Modern America.’ McGuigan is a dues-paying member of the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty.