Oklahoma death row inmate requests competency hearing

Oct. 28—Attorneys for an Oklahoma death row inmate are asking a judge to order competency proceedings instead of waiting for a prison warden to make a decision.

James Chandler Ryder, 60, was sentenced to death for the 1999 death of Daisy Hallum and to life in prison without parole for the 1999 death of Sam Hallum.

Court records and previous News-Capital articles report the Hallums were found dead at their property on April 9, 1999 with investigators believing a shotgun was used in Sam Hallum's death and that Daisy Hallum was bludgeoned to death.

Ryder, from Pittsburg County, was accused in their deaths following a dispute in Longtown. He reportedly lived on the Hallum property for some time before the killings.

Defense attorneys asked a Pittsburg County judge to conduct an evidentiary hearing into the competency of Ryder and order Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Jim Farris to call to attention to the district attorney of Pittsburg County that Ryder is "insane" and competency proceedings should commence.

Ryder is the third inmate this year to make a similar request in Pittsburg County District Court.

Wade Lay was granted a competency trial expected to start in March 2023. Benjamin Cole's request was denied before his Oct. 20 execution.

Ryder's attorneys stated they notified Farris of Ryder's present mental condition to Farris on Sept. 13 via email and postal mail and requested a "prompt response given his scheduled execution."

The attorneys followed up with Farris on Oct. 7 and said if an answer was not given by Oct. 19, judicial remedy would be sought.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections General Council Kari Hawkins' response Oct. 12 stating the agency received the request and that Farris would give the matter "careful consideration."

"I am advising him to refrain from making a decision in haste in order to meet an unsolicited deadline," Hawkins wrote in the response. "Mr. Ryder's execution date is June 1, 2023. While we do not intent to be dilatory, we do intend to exercise due diligence. Warden Farris will take whatever time he needs in the coming weeks or months to properly take this matter under advisement. Thus, any representations to the court based upon his alleged failure to meet the Oct. 19, 2022, deadline would be inappropriate and a misrepresentation of fact."

Ryder's attorneys argue he can not wait "weeks or months" for a response from Farris as competency hearings are "complex, fact-intensive inquiries."

Attorneys argue Ryder suffers from severe, diagnosed mental illnesses dating back to 2000 with numerous psychologists and experts ruling the man incompetent throughout the years with the latest diagnosis in August 2022. Nearly 200 pages of documentation was filed by Ryder's containing notes and other documents from psychologists who have seen Ryder.

Following an August 2022 exam, Barry M. Crown, Ph. D, wrote Ryder "evidences the signs of a major mental illness."

"He is emaciated and disheveled with pressured speech and cognitive problems with concentration, attention, memory and executive functions." Crown wrote. "He expresses disorganized and unfocused responses with loose associations and delusional fixations."

Crown said his clinical opinion was Ryder "is presently unable to demonstrate a rational understanding of the fact they he will be executed" and diagnosed Ryder with Schizophrenic Spectrum Disorder.

"In terms familiar to the law, Mr. Ryder is insane," Crown wrote. "His mental power has been wholly obliterated. He is unable to comprehend or process, in any fashion, the reason he is to be executed and that the execution is imminent."

No response has been filed by the state of Oklahoma at the time this story was being procuded.

Contact Derrick James at djames@mcalesternews.com