McALESTER — A fourth death row inmate has a scheduled execution date at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
A court set Benjamin Robert Cole Jr.’s execution date for March 5 in the 2002 slaying of Cole’s 9-month daughter, Brianna, in Claremore. Cole killed the baby because her crying interrupted his video game playing.
"As Cole has exhausted his appeals and no stay of execution is in place, this court is required to set an execution date," four judges wrote in an opinion issued by the Court of Criminal Appeals of the state of Oklahoma.
The court on Friday also rescheduled execution dates for three other death row prisoners. Those inmates are Charles Warner, Jan. 15; Richard Eugene Glossip, Jan. 29; and John Marion Grant, Feb. 19.
The men previously had their execution dates delayed in the aftermath of the botched April execution of Clayton Lockett at OSP in April.
It took nearly 40 minutes for the convicted killer to die, and a state investigation determined an intravenous line delivering drugs to Lockett’s system shifted.
The state said it has since revised its execution protocol, but Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt recently filed court paperwork seeking to delay the executions so the state can secure the drugs necessary and carry out additional training for Department of Corrections' personnel and medical professionals.
Dale Baich is an assistant federal public defender who represents death row inmate Tremane Wood. He told the McAlester News-Capital in an interview Tuesday that a complaint was filed recently in the federal courts of the Western District of Oklahoma on behalf of 21 inmates — including Warner, Glossip, Grant and Cole — seeking more information on what went wrong with Lockett’s execution.
He said a full report from the state on Lockett’s execution hasn’t been released publicly.
“During the discovery process in the federal proceedings, we hope to be able to depose a number of individuals from the Department of Corrections, people and others who participated in the execution to try and get to the bottom of what really happened,” Baich said.
Cole confessed to attacking Brianna Cole at the family home in Claremore. The child's back was broken and her aorta ruptured when Cole deliberately bent the child backward and in half. Cole had a prior conviction in California for felony child abuse against another child.
Warner is scheduled to die for raping and killing an 11-month-old in 1997. Glossip was convicted of orchestrating the murder of a motel owner who was preparing to question Glossip about money missing from the property. Grant killed corrections worker Gay Carter by stabbing her 16 times in the chest at a correctional facility in Hominy.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the state is likely working to obtain the necessary drugs and carry out the training to try and prevent a repeat of the problems that surfaced in the Lockett execution.
"It's a proper response by the state to the fact that there were serious problems in the last execution," Dieter said of the delay. "It required not just a report, but a plan to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Dieter said despite the controversial Lockett execution and others like it, a majority of Americans — slightly more than 60 percent — support capital punishment, according to recent polling.