Death row inmate ruled incompetent for execution

Mar. 29—A Pittsburg County judge ruled a death row inmate from the county is not competent to be executed days before a stay in the case was set to expire.

James Chandler Ryder, 61, was sentenced to death by a Pittsburg County jury 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 was accused in their deaths following a dispute in Longtown. He reportedly lived on the Hallum property for some time before the killings.

Pittsburg County District Judge Mike Hogan issued the ruling just days before a stay ordered by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals expired on March 31.

"The court could go on ad nauseum discussing the irrational thought processes of Mr. Ryder, but this is not needed," Hogan wrote in his order. "To be clear, the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence, Mr. Ryder is not competent to be executed" under state law.

A two-day non-jury trial was held this week with experts testifying on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and Ryder.

The hearing was ordered by OCCA in December 2023 after Ryder's attorneys filed a motion for a stay of execution after the court denied a request made by the state's attorney general to reschedule the execution to a later date after Hogan continued Ryder's competency hearing to a date later than the scheduled execution date.

OCCA denied the AG's request due to a new law regarding the setting of competency hearings going into effect in 2022 during the initial stages of Ryder's attorneys pleading for a competency hearing to be initiated.

The new law 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. The old law stated the warden of the prison must notify the district attorney's office to initiate competency proceedings.

OCCA gave a 100-day deadline for a hearing to be held with a deadline of March 31.

Experts testifying on Ryder's behalf said the death row inmate suffers from severe, diagnosed mental illnesses dating back 23 years with numerous psychologists and experts ruling the man incompetent through the years with the latest diagnosis in August 2022. Nearly 200 pages of documentation were filed by Ryder's attorneys containing notes and other documents from psychologists who have seen Ryder.

An expert for the state testified he believed Ryder was competent to sufficiently and rationally understand why he is being executed and that his execution is imminent.

The order states Ryder believed the "World Central Bank" supplied the execution drugs to Oklahoma so he could be silenced and attributed his beliefs to being "enlightened by the spirit."

"The court is of the opinion 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," Hogan wrote. "Ryder does have a factual understanding of his execution, which is not rational."

The decision states Ryder believes he will not die and that the collapse of the government "will allow him to go to Russia and raise a heterosexual son."

Under state law, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services are now tasked with determining the best place for Ryder to be held in safe confinement until his competency is restored.

Emma Rolls, Ryder's attorney, thanked Hogan for his consideration of all the evidence.

"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 said in a statement. "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."

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office said the office will work to restore Ryder's competency.

"Attorney General Drummond respects the court's decision, but is disappointed that James Ryder is now ineligible to be executed for the horrific slaying of Daisy Hallum and her son, Sam Hallum," Phil Bacharach, a spokesman for the AG's office said in a statement. "The state will continue working to restore competency so justice can be served."