Court Rules Man Not Competent to Be Executed Due to Severe Mental Illness

Special to the Vanguard

McAlester, OK – After conducting a competency hearing, a district court judge in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, has ruled that James Ryder is not competent to be executed because of his severe mental illness.

Ryder was scheduled for execution on February 1, but 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.

According to court records, Ryder was sentenced to death for the beating murder of a woman in 1999.  During an interview by a warden, he reached the opinion that there was reason to question whether Ryder was competent to be executed.

A court trial was held on March 25 where two experts both testified that Ryder suffers from schizophrenia.

The court considered the evidence provided by various psychiatric experts and reached the opinion that Ryder has “raised a substantial doubt as to [his] competency to be executed.”

The court noted, “There is very little evidence of competent statements by Mr. Ryder other than Mr. Ryder’s factual understanding of his past crimes against the Hallums and what his conviction is for and that he received the death penalty for the death of Daisy Hallum.”

One of the doctors expressed the opinion that Ryder does not “understand the gravity of what is about to happen.”

The court said, “The Court is of the opinion (as it pertains to the limited issue at hand) a finding Mr. Ryder has a mental condition which makes him unable to rationally and factually understand the reason for his execution, the execution is imminent, and he will be executed is all that is required. Mr. Ryder does have a factual understanding of his execution, (one) which is not rational.”

Indeed, experts testified 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.”

Further, “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.’”

The 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 Mr. Ryder to be incompetent during his habeas corpus proceedings.

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

Emma Rolls, an attorney for James Ryder responded, “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.”

Rolls added, “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.”

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

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