Benjamin Cole, who was executed Thursday morning by the state of Oklahoma for the 2002 murder of his 9-month-old daughter, did not ask for a traditional last meal.
The 57-year-old, who died by lethal injection, was given a “religious meal” consisting of vegetarian lasagna, salad, a tortilla and a package of fruit, according to The Oklahoman.
Cole, who said he hoped his spirit would return to his “Father in Heaven,” also called himself “just a super-duper hyperbolic Jesus freak.”
As his last words, Cole went on a two-minute religious ramble with the words “choose Jesus while you still can” and “keep your eyes open… Always be ready.”
He asked that Jesus “receive my spirit.”
Cole was pronounced dead at 10:22 a.m. Central Time after refusing to have a spiritual advisor in the room. He didn’t want his lawyers in the witness room.
His lawyers had previously argued that Cole was mentally ill and ineligible to be executed.
Benjamin Robert Cole, 57, was murdered Thursday morning by the state of Oklahoma after being convicted of murdering his daughter in 2002
Cole’s attorneys unsuccessfully pleaded for leniency to the killer due to a serious mental illness and a continuously growing lesion in his brain that affected his problem solving, movement and social interactions.
Brianna Cole was tragically murdered by her father on December 20, 2002. She was nine months old
Cole was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and, according to his lawyers, is “disabled by his mental illness to the point of being essentially non-functional.”
However, state attorneys and members of the victim’s family have said the symptoms of Cole’s mental illness are exaggerated and that the brutality of his daughter’s murder deserved the death penalty.
Five days before Christmas in 2002, Brianna Cole was murdered by her father, who forcibly bent the child backwards until her spine fractured and her aorta ruptured. Prosecutors said Cole was upset that her crying interrupted his video game playing.
Cole’s was Oklahoma’s sixth execution since October 2021, when the state resumed the practice.
In the execution room, Cole expressed no immediate remorse for the murder of his baby, but referred to “everyone I’ve done wrong.”
However, his lawyer claimed that Cole was both seriously mentally ill and a growing lesion in his brain that gradually got worse while he was in prison.
The lesion affected the parts of his brain involved in problem solving, movement and social interaction. The type of lesion he has is often associated with Parkinson’s disease.
While awaiting his execution on death row, Cole reportedly neglected his personal hygiene and refused medical attention. He hoarded food and barely communicated with other inmates or prison staff.
His attorney, Katrina Conrad-Leger, said his “condition has continued to deteriorate over the course of this year.”
Cole’s attorneys claimed that he lived in a near catatonic state and that they hadn’t had any meaningful interaction with him in years. They said he couldn’t understand why the state of Oklahoma wanted to kill him
Cole died by lethal injection. He was the sixth inmate to die in Oklahoma after the state resumed the practice in 2021
According to his pardon, Cole lived in anything but a “catatonic” state.
His own lawyers have been unable to interact meaningfully with him for years, and the staff who deal with him every day in prison affirm that he cannot communicate or take care of his most basic hygiene. He just doesn’t have a rational understanding of why Oklahoma wants to execute him,” attorney Tom Bird said.
His lawyers pointed to an “evolving standard of decency” when it comes to executions of the mentally ill.
“Right now, Oklahoma has an opportunity to show courage, follow these standards and be on the right side of history by banning the execution of Benjamin Cole, a seriously mentally ill and physically disabled person,” they wrote. .
But the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 last month to refuse a pardon, and earlier in October a district judge ruled he had jurisdiction to be executed.
The curtain went up a few minutes late at 10:04 am in the execution room.
The lethal injection itself took 16 minutes. At some point during the trial, Cole opened his eyes, trembled slightly, and yawned as the venom ran through his veins.
Cole’s attorneys said his mental state seriously disintegrated over his time in prison, to the extent that he was not functional at the time of his death.
Cole became one in a string of more than 24 executions Oklahoma is carrying out on Thursday
Two appeals to the US Supreme Court were also dismissed this week, so the execution continued Thursday morning.
A separate case filed Wednesday argued that Oklahoma’s execution protocol is unconstitutional because of, among other things, a number of problems that have arisen in the death chamber.
A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling earlier this year that the state’s execution protocol is constitutional.
“Oklahoma’s past problems in the executive chamber are not sufficient to show that similar problems are imminent in the future,” the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals advises.
In addition, the state and family of victim Brianna Cole argued that the symptoms of Cole’s mental incompetence have been exaggerated.
Assistant Attorney General Tessa Henry told the leniency panel that Cole killed his child because he was angry that her crying interrupted his video game play.
In a recorded confession to police, Cole admitted to causing his daughter’s fatal injuries and said he “would regret his actions for the rest of his life.”
Twice during his first trial, Cole’s lawyers called for competency assessments because of their client’s religious delusions and irrational behavior. He had not yet been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was found fit to stand trial.
Prior to his trial, prosecutors offered him a plea deal that would have resulted in a life sentence without parole, which he rejected — a decision his more recent team of lawyers called a “complete act of irrationality against self-interest.”
Prosecutors noted that the child had suffered a number of injuries consistent with a history of abuse and that Cole had previously been in prison in California for serious child abuse of a son from his first marriage.
Emotional testimonies from baby Brianna’s family were also presented to the board.
Her aunt, Donna Daniel, said the first time she saw her niece was in her coffin.
“Do you know how horrible it is to see a nine-month-old baby lying in a coffin?” she asked.
“This baby deserves justice. Our family deserves justice.’
Cole’s execution was originally scheduled to take place in 2015, but the state dropped the practice of investigating a drug mix.