Decision Wednesday on Oklahoma beheading suspect competency

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Posted: Oct 27, 2015 7:03 PM
Decision Wednesday on Oklahoma beheading suspect competency

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A forensic psychologist hired by prosecutors testified Tuesday that a man accused of beheading a co-worker at a suburban Oklahoma City food processing plant is mentally competent, offering a conflicting view on whether the suspect can stand trial on a murder charge.

A judge said she would announce a decision Wednesday on whether Alton Nolen can stand trial for the September 2014 beheading death of Colleen Hufford and the wounding of a second co-worker at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. A not guilty plea has been entered on Nolen's behalf.

Testimony at a trial on Nolen's competency concluded Tuesday, with defense lawyer Ben Brown telling Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley that, according to the evidence, Nolen is unable to help his lawyers prepare his defense. He suggested that Nolen be sent to the Oklahoma Forensic Center for further examination.

But prosecutor Greg Mashburn said Nolen could help if he wanted to.

"This is simply a dispute bteween the defendant and his attorneys," Mashburn said.

Since one unanswered question is whether Nolen can express himself well, Walkley said she wouldn't rule until after listening to a 15-minute recording that had been made of the suspect speaking to someone by telephone from the Cleveland County jail.

Experts have disagreed since the trial began Monday on whether Nolen should stand trial.

"He made it clear that he was not happy about having his competency questioned," said Dr. Shawn Roberson, testifying for the prosecution. "He said he wanted the death penalty. He wasn't worried about the afterlife."

He noted that Nolen received two As in psychology courses in college.

On Monday, Dr. Anita Russell had testified that she believed Nolen was mentally incompetent to stand trial.

"He won't consider any kind of defenses," Russell testified. "He's saying, 'I'll take the death penalty,' — that's it. He's unable or unwilling to consult with counsel."

Investigators said Nolen had just been suspended from Vaughan Foods in Moore when he walked into the company's administrative office and attacked Hufford with a large knife, severing her head.

He then repeatedly stabbed co-worker Traci Johnson before he was shot by Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff's deputy and the company's chief operating officer. Johnson survived the attack.