Death row inmate ruled incompetent for execution

May 10—A Pittsburg County judge ruled an Oklahoma death row inmate scheduled to be executed in June is incompetent to be executed.

Wade Lay, 63, was set to be the first inmate executed in America in 2022 before a southeast Oklahoma district judge ordered a stay in December 2021.

Pittsburg County Associate Judge Tim Mills made the ruling after attorneys for the state and Lay came to an agreement to the evidence regarding Lay's competency.

"The parties agree that the evidence establishes, by the preponderance or greater weight of the evidence, that Mr. Wade Lay, is currently incompetent to be executed," Mills wrote in his ruling.

Lay, who was convicted in the 2004 shooting death of Tulsa-area bank security guard Kenneth Anderson, was originally scheduled for lethal injection Jan. 6, 2022, at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was scheduled to be executed on June 6, 2024, pending the outcome of his competency trial.

Under a now struck state law, District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan filed a petition in March 2022 asking for a competency inquiry of Lay. The new law, which went into effect in late 2022 states a death row inmate must file a motion with OCCA alleging incompetency within seven days after the AG filed a motion seeking an execution date.

Sullivan made the request after the Oklahoma State Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a judge's stay of execution after he found "good reason to believe" Lay was not competent to be executed.

Mills ordered "the execution competency trial of Mr. Wade Lay set for the first week of the May 2024 jury docket, beginning April 29, 2024."

Court records show Mills struck the trial from the May trial docket "to be reset upon motion of either party."

Mills ruled in December 2021 that he found "good reason to believe" Lay was not competent to be executed and granted an execution stay.

He wrote in his order "it is unavoidable that a jury cannot be empaneled to consider Mr. Lay's competency claim before his December 15, 2021, clemency hearing and January 6, 2022, execution date."

The judge wrote that OSP Warden Jim Farris "abused his discretion in failing to call such fact to the attention of the District Attorney of Pittsburg County" and ordered the warden to commence the process.

Lay's attorneys argued a doctor concluded in September 2021 he "is not competent for execution." The AG's Office has argued that Lay "is a domestic terrorist" and murdered Anderson "as part of an effort to obtain funds to avenge the government's actions at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and at Ruby Ridge (in Idaho)."

The AG's office also stated Lay was found competent to stand trial by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals with the decision affirmed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We are relieved that the district court and the State recognize that Wade Lay's delusions prevent him from having any rational understanding of the reason for his execution, and carrying out that execution would violate the Constitution," said Callie Heller, an attorney for Lay. "Wade firmly believes that his execution is part of a wide-ranging government conspiracy aimed at silencing him," she said.

Mills ordered "a detailed copy" of Lay's treatment plan to have his competency restored within 90-days of the order with a progress report every 30-days.

A reevaluation of Lay's competency will be held six months after the initial treatment plan is received by Mills.

"Given the duration and severity of Mr. Lay's mental illness and his deterioration in recent years, he is unlikely to become competent in the future," Heller said.