Jurors Recommend Death Penalty for Oklahoma Beheader

October 12, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) – An Oklahoma jury recommended the death penalty Thursday for convicted murderer Alton Nolen for gruesomely beheading a co-worker at a food-processing plant in 2014.

The 12-member Cleveland County jury deliberated for four hours in the afternoon after being told by prosecutors that Nolen, 33, wanted to die.

“He wants the death penalty,” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said, The Oklahoman newspaper reported. “Give him what he wants.”

The jury convicted Nolen in September of first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.

Nolen admitted to killing Colleen Hufford, 54, with a knife at the Vaughan Foods plant in Norman, but asserted an insanity defense. He purportedly killed her in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made on an assembly line.

Hufford was white, while Nolen is black and a Muslim convert.

Mashburn showed jurors images of Hufford in life before showing images of her severed head and body.

The punishment phase lasted two weeks, as jurors have already sentenced Nolen to three life sentences plus 130 years in state prison on the assault and battery charges.

On Wednesday, the jury rejected the defense’s argument that Nolen qualifies as “mentally retarded” under state law. The death penalty would have been off the table if the jury concluded otherwise.

Nolen tried to behead a second co-worker during the attack, but failed when he was shot by a company executive.

He later confessed that he initiated the attack because he felt oppressed as a Muslim.

Nolen’s attorneys pleaded for his life before deliberations, repeating arguments that he is mentally ill and mentally disabled.

“You do not need a doctor to tell you something is wrong with him,” attorney Shea Smith said. “He’s clearly got something wrong.”

From Courthouse News.

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Death Penalty Possible in Oklahoma Beheading Trial

October 11, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) – An Oklahoma jury Tuesday rejected claims that convicted murderer Alton Nolen is “mentally retarded,” clearing the way for the death penalty as jurors weigh his punishment for beheading a co-worker at a food processing plant in 2014.

During the punishment phase of his trial, the 12-member Cleveland County jury unanimously concluded Nolen is not intellectually disabled. The term “mentally retard” is outdated and considered offensive in contemporary society, but the concept still exists in Oklahoma law.

Nolen’s attorney, Mitch Solomon, told jurors a death sentence “will not do anything to make the pain go away.”

“It was a terrible thing that happened,” Solomon said. “The question always was why it happened.”

Jurors two weeks ago convicted Nolen, 33, of first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.

Nolen killed Colleen Hufford, 54, at the Vaughn Foods plan in Norman, purportedly in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made while on an assembly line. Hufford was white; Nolen is black.

The punishment phase has lasted two weeks so far. Jurors have already sentenced him to three life sentences plus 130 years in state prison on the assault and battery charges. Defense attorneys have spent a week questioning Nolen’s mental state, presenting testimony that Nolen scored 69 on an IQ test in 2015.

Jurors were not persuaded by Nolen’s insanity defense during trial. A defense expert medical witness testified she observed Nolen show “numerous indications of mental illness,” that he told her was tempted by the sight of her feet, called her an infidel and “seemed preoccupied with what was going on in his mind.” She testified that he would refer to things in the name of Allah when not appropriate and that there was a history of mental illness in his family.

From Courthouse News.

Oklahoma Man Convicted of Murder in Workplace Beheading

September 29, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) – An Oklahoma jury deliberated for over an hour Friday before convicting Alton Nolen of murder in the 2014 beheading of a co-worker at a food-processing plant.

A 12-member Cleveland County jury soundly rejected Nolen’s insanity defense after three weeks of trial, convicting him of one count of first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. The punishment phase begins Monday. Nolen, 33, faces the death penalty.

The attack drew national attention because of its gruesome nature and because Nolen, a black Muslim convert, killed a white woman, Colleen Hufford, 54, at the Vaughn Foods plant in Norman. Nolen purportedly killed her in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made while on an assembly line.

Nolen’s subsequent attack on another white female employee was stopped when he was shot by a company executive. Nolen later calmly admitted to the attacks in investigator records played for the jury last week.

Hufford’s family said it is thankful to the jury for its verdict.

“All of us now hope for a swift sentencing process concluding with the death penalty for this killer,” the family said in a statement. “None of this will ever bring my mother back to us, but there is a greater sense of closure as justice continues to be administered and our family embraces the healing process.”

Nolen’s attorneys unsuccessfully argued during closing arguments that Nolen’s mental illness caused him to misinterpret Islamic teachings. They reminded jurors that Nolen said he thought he was doing the right thing by killing Hufford.

Court-appointed defense attorney Shea Smith told jurors Nolen made up a religion in his own mind that had conflicting beliefs, and that he thought he was given special abilities by Allah, The Oklahoman newspaper reported.

A defense expert medical witness testified this week that she observed Nolen showing “numerous indications of mental illness,” that he told her was tempted by the sight of her feet, called her an infidel and “seemed preoccupied with what was going on in his mind.” She testified he would refer to things in the name of Allah when not appropriate and that there was a history of mental illness in his family.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn flatly rejected the insanity defense, telling jurors during closing arguments that “you don’t even have to listen” to the doctors to determine Nolen is not insane.

“Why did he want to plead guilty if he thought that he was doing the right thing?” Mashburn asked. “Why would he be willing to take the death penalty?”

From Courthouse News.

State Attacks Insanity Defense in Beheading Murder Trial

September 27, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) — Prosecutors chipped away at Alton Nolen’s insanity defense Tuesday, grilling defense expert witnesses who say he was mentally ill when he beheaded a co-worker at an Oklahoma food-processing plant in 2014.

Licensed psychiatrist Antoinette McGarrahan, of Dallas, acknowledged during cross-examination that her schizophrenia diagnosis of Nolen, 32, could be considered “somewhat objective,” but that she is trained to make such a diagnosis.

She testified under direct examination Monday that she examined Nolen for nine hours over two days in 2016 and concluded “there were numerous indications of mental illness.” She said Nolen stuttered, said he was tempted by the sight of her feet, called her an infidel and “seemed preoccupied with what was going on in his mind.”

McGarrahan said Nolen would refer to things “in the name of Allah” when it wasn’t appropriate to what was being discussed and that there was a history of mental illness in his family.

Nolen is charged with the first-degree murder of Colleen Hufford at a Vaughn Foods plant in Norman in September 2014. The killing made national headlines because aside from its gruesome nature, Nolen, who is black, had converted to Islam, and Hufford, 54, was a white woman.

Nolen allegedly killed Hufford in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made while the two were on an assembly line. Nolen’s attorneys acknowledge that he killed Hufford, but say he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Psychologist Anita Russell, of Tulsa, also testified Tuesday, saying Nolen was insane and “delusional” during the attack. She said he tried to dictate the conversation during her 2015 evaluation and refused to discuss his personal life.

The trial has lasted three weeks, with the defense expected to rest their case Wednesday. Last week prosecutors played recordings of Nolen calmly admitting the killing to investigators, saying it was justified because he felt “oppressed” as a Muslim.

Nolen was shot and wounded by a company executive, stopping a subsequent attack on Traci Johnson, 46. She testified on Sept. 18 that he cut her up “like a piece of meat,” and she needed surgery to repair damage to her jugular vein.

From Courthouse News.

Attorneys to Argue Oklahoma Man Was Insane When He Beheaded Co-Worker

September 25, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) –  Attorneys for Alton Nolen will present their case Monday that he was insane when he beheaded a co-worker at an Oklahoma food-processing plant, days after prosecutors played recordings of him calmly admitting to the killing.

Nolen, 32, is charged with the first-degree murder of Colleen Hufford in September 2014, at a Vaughn Foods plant in Norman. The killing made national headlines because, aside from its gruesome nature, Nolen, who is black, had converted to Islam, and Hufford, 54, was a white woman. Nolen allegedly killed Hufford in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made while the two were on an assembly line. Nolen allegedly told her “I beat Caucasians” during an argument.

Prosecutors called their final witnesses on Wednesday and the trial recessed for the following two days. In recordings played for the jury Wednesday, Nolen is heard telling police investigators that the killing was justified because he felt “oppressed” as a Muslim.

“She just, you know, wanted to bring me down, like I couldn’t be me as a Muslim,” he said. “She want to bring me down low to the ground.”

Nolen admitted that he had watched videos on YouTube depicting beheadings all the time, The Oklahoman newspaper reported.

Nolen denied investigator questions over whether he was influenced by Muslims he knew from mosques or that he met in prison.

“Like I say, the Quran is easy to understand,” he said. “No one guides me but Allah.”

Nolen said he felt no remorse for the attack.

“I don’t feel regret because what I done, that’s probably going to make Vaughan Foods a better place to work at, if somebody was to come there who was a Muslim,” he said. “I don’t regret it at all.”

Nolen said he was sure he “was going to heaven” if he had died during the killing. He was shot and wounded by a company executive, stopping a subsequent attack on Traci Johnson, 46.

“He wouldn’t stop,” Johnson testified on Sept. 18. “He was just going back and forth like he was cutting up a piece of meat. I did not know what to do or think.”

Johnson testified that she needed surgery to repair damage to her jugular vein. She sustained severe cuts to her face, neck and finger.

From Courthouse News.

Attorney Says Her Client Beheaded Woman, but Was Insane

September 15, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) — An attorney acknowledged during opening arguments Thursday that her client beheaded a co-worker at an Oklahoma food-processing plant, but told jurors that Alton Nolen was insane when he did it, and “thought what he was doing was right.”

Nolen, 32, is charged with the first-degree murder of Colleen Hufford in September 2014, at a Vaughn Foods plant in Norman. The killing made national headlines because, aside from its gruesome nature, Nolen, who is black, had converted to Islam, and Hufford, 54, was a white woman.

Attorney Shea Smith, with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, asked jurors on Thursday to find Nolen not guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors firmly disagreed, saying Nolen killed Hufford by sawing at her neck with a “large bladed knife.”

Nolen then allegedly went after Traci J. Johnson, 46, cutting her throat and face before a company executive shot him. Nolen allegedly attacked after Johnson complained that he did not like white people.

Prosecutors say Nolen drove home to get the knife after being suspended, and returned to work, and that his now-deleted Facebook page showed images of beheadings and Osama bin Laden.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn told the jury Hufford was “brutally and ferociously” killed, and he described details of the killing.

Mashburn said Nolen had told Johnson: “I beat Caucasians” during an argument.

Nolen also is charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon. He faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

He wore his prison jumpsuit in court and was seen covering his ears with his hands and closing his eyes during jury selection in the morning, KWTV reported.

The case has been mired in the courts for three years as state District Judge Lori Walkley sought to determine Nolen’s competency to stand trial. Walkley ordered a competency hearing two years ago, where psychologist Jeanne Russell testified that Nolen wants to plead guilty and be executed because of his religious beliefs. She said he had a “major deficit” in his “intellectual functioning” that she observed during seven hours of interviews.

Walkley questioned Nolen for 90 minutes on the stand in May 2016 when he tried to enter a guilty plea, trying to determine if he understood he was waiving his right to a trial. He responded with rambling answers about his Islamic faith, saying events of his life were pre-determined. He stopped his testimony at one point to pray.

During a subsequent competency hearing in April this year, security officers removed Nolen from the courtroom for causing a disturbance.

From Courthouse News.

Accused Murderer Removed From Court Hearing

April 4, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) — An Oklahoma man accused of beheading a co-worker and nearly beheading a second at a food processing plant was subdued by deputies and removed from court Monday for causing a disturbance during a competency hearing.

Alton Alexander Nolen struggled with deputies during the hearing and state District Judge Lori Walkley cleared the courtroom, The Oklahoman newspaper reported.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn told reporters his office has seen such outbursts with other defendants.

“Today there was a disturbance in the courtroom, [the judge] not knowing if he was wanting to stay and be a part of the rest of the proceedings,” Mashburn said outside the courtroom. “That is why the judge requested of him if he wanted to stay or not.”

Nolen, a Muslim convert, is accused of beheading 54-year-old Colleen Hufford in 2014 at a Vaughn Foods processing plant after she complained about him “not liking white people.”

Prosecutors say he also tried to behead Traci Johnson, cutting her throat and face, before trying to stab a company executive, who shot him.

Nolen pleaded guilty in May 2016 to first-degree murder and two counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Judge Walkley has yet to accept the plea, pending a determination of Nolen’s competency.

“If he is found competent, the judge will then ask him how he wishes to proceed,” Mashburn said. “If that is still his wish and he is found competent, she can accept his plea and we will go into the sentencing phase.”

After Nolen entered his plea in May 2016, Walkley questioned him for 90 minutes about the crime and whether he understood he was waiving his right to a jury trial. He responded with rambling answers, referring to his Muslim faith and saying that events in his life were pre-determined. He stopped at one point to pray.

From Courthouse News.