Capitol Beat OK

State Court Rules James Ryder is ‘not competent to be executed Due to Severe Mental Illness

McAlester, Oklahoma – After conducting a competency hearing, Pittsburg County District Court Judge Michael W. Hogan ruled this week that death row prisoner James Ryder is not competent to be executed because of his severe mental illness.

Ryder had been scheduled for execution on February 1.

That date was stayed in December 2023 when the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed that Mr. Ryder had presented sufficient evidence to warrant a competency hearing.

The district court’s order can be accessed here:

https://tinyurl.com/4dm6dyu2

The hearing included evidence that Mr. Ryder suffers from schizophrenia and experiences extreme paranoia and fixed delusions, some of which specifically relate to his death sentence and execution.

Experts have determined that Ryder believes his death sentence results from a wide-ranging conspiracy involving politicians, prosecutors, and the “World Central Bank” relating to the supply of execution drugs.

The experts also explained that Mr. Ryder believes that his execution will not result in a “permanent death,” but instead will result in his placement in an “alien body,” after which he will continue to live “in the Cosmos.”

Reports of two evaluating experts are available online.

The first can be studied here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pzhDBz-7lcMv2FAkMSoiMCk88Jd6gZ9T/view

The second is available here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/178RGW7Qs8kFQcdbv0E1aIUwE07_C1WI2/view

Evidence at the competency hearing also showed that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has classified Mr. Ryder as one of its most severely mentally ill prisoners and that a federal judge had previously found Ryder to be incompetent during his habeas corpus proceedings.

Based on this evidence, the court concluded that James Ryder lacked a rational understanding of the basis for his execution, making him incompetent to be executed under the United States Constitution and Oklahoma law.

For the Associated Press, journalist Sean Murphy reported this week, “Ryder was sentenced to die for the 1999 beating death of Daisy Hallum, 70, and to life without parole for the shotgun slaying of her son, Sam Hallum, 38.

“Court records show Ryder lived on the Hallum’s property in Pittsburg County for several months in 1998 and took care of their home and horses when they were out of town. He had a dispute with the family over some of his property after he had moved out.

“Under state law, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services are now tasked with determining the best place for Ryder to be held in safe confinement until his competency is restored.”

In a statement transmitted to CapitolBeatOK.com on March 28, Emma Rolls, attorney for James Ryder, commented on the district court decision.

She said:

“We appreciate the thorough consideration the court gave to all of the evidence that James Ryder is incompetent, and are relieved the court reached the only logical conclusion from that information: James has no rational understanding of why Oklahoma plans to execute him.

“James has suffered from schizophrenia for nearly 40 years and has little connection to objective reality. His condition has deteriorated significantly over the years and will only continue to worsen.

“As the court concluded, executing James would be unconstitutional. We urge the State to cease any further efforts to execute him.”

Notes and Disclosure: Patrick B. McGuigan, who has covered the death penalty and criminal justice issues for several decades prepared this story, relying on news reports (including the Associated Press) and material transmitted to CapitolBeatOK.com from Laura Burstein, who works for Squire Patton Boggs, a firm with international legal practice, including in the United States. Visit www.squirepattonboggs.com for more information. CapitollBeatOK.com, founded in 2009 by Patrick B. McGuigan, is an independent, non-partisan and locally-managed news service based in Oklahoma City. Pat is a dues-paying member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP).