An unexpected issue has come up in the Vaughan Foods beheading trial. On Thursday, the judge told the jurors there was a “snag” in the case and sent them home. Jurors returned on Friday, but were sent home again.
The jury already found Alton Nolen, 33, guilty on six charges, including five counts of assault and one count of first degree murder. The trial is now in the penalty phase for the murder charge. Nolen is guilty for beheading Colleen Hufford at work on September 25, 2014. During interviews with law enforcement he admitted to the crime and told police he felt oppressed by someone who didn’t worship Allah.
During the penalty phase, the defense and state must first make their case about Nolen’s intellectuality. His attorneys are trying to prove he is intellectually disabled; the state says he is not. By Oklahoma law, if jurors unanimously find him intellectually disabled, Nolen cannot be eligible for the death penalty. However, if it is not unanimous, or if they find him competent, the death penalty remains an option in his sentencing.
As the district attorney put on an expert witness to testify, questions were brought up about testing done by a psychologist called by the defense. This caused the “snag” in the case. On Friday, the jurors were told to return on Tuesday as both sides deal with the issue.
The judge assured the jury she is working to keep the trial on track as it goes into week five. She expects the jurors to deliberate on Nolen’s intellectual disability on Tuesday. They will likely decide the sentencing on Wednesday.