A Cleveland County judge is forced to scrap a planned sentencing hearing and order a jury trial after a murder defendant caused a disruption and refused to participate in court.
Alton Nolen, 32, of Moore stands accused of beheading and killing a co-worker and trying to behead another during a workplace rampage on September 24, 2014.
Last week, the same judge ruled Nolen was competent to stand trial and was deemed intellectually able to receive the death penalty.
Tuesday was supposed to be the beginning of the sentencing phase, but Nolen caused yet another disturbance in court; one of the many that has taken place during this complicated death penalty case.
Early on, Nolen said that he wanted to plead guilty and receive the death penalty in his capital murder case. But when it came time to reaffirm his intent, he refused to do so, and ignored the judge's questions to acknowledge his plea.
Nolen appeared to be fine as he entered the courtroom, but once inside witnesses say he decided to kick at the swinging half doors just past the seating gallery. Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn was in the courtroom, and says Nolen tried to resist deputy attempts to get him to move forward, and was forced to the ground.
"He didn't want to come in," said Mashburn. "Started backing up."
Nolen's court-appointed defense team hurried into the courtroom, and he was finally seated at the defense table.
"After that the defendant put his fingers in his ears and refused to participate in any of the court hearing and didn't answer any of the judge’s questions," said Mashburn.
Nolen was then escorted out of the courtroom after the judge told him she had no choice but to reject his guilty plea. She then ordered a jury trial to take place, since Nolen refused to answer and reaffirm his intent, which legally he has to do for the sentencing phase to move forward.
"It has been a roller coaster ride for the families," said Mashburn. "It's been a roller coaster ride for us. If I had my way, he would already be on death row. But there's a process we have to go through and to have a fair proceeding. And the judge has done that. And unfortunately, we're not there yet."
A court date has not yet been set for the trial, but it is expected to be in late May or June. But this case could have another twist if Nolen decides he is willing to come forward and enter a plea in court, without making a disruption.
News 9 will continue to monitor this case and bring you the latest as it happens.