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State agrees to stay for delusional Wade Lay even as it pushes for executions of other mentally fragile people

wade lay.jpeg
Oklahoma death row inmate Wade Lay

Oklahoma has agreed to stay the Jan. 6 execution of Wade Lay.

In court filings from Thursday, Attorney General John O’Connor’s office said there are “unique considerations and constraints at issue” in Lay’s case.

A jury must be convened to judge whether Lay is able to understand he’s being put to death and why. The jury can’t be convened until Jan. 18. Since that date is after the scheduled execution, the state has agreed to postpone.

Wade Lay and his son, Christopher Lay, were involved in a gun fight at MidFirst Bank in Tulsa in 2004. Security guard Kenneth Anderson was shot and killed during the attempted robbery.

Lay testified at his 2005 trial that he tried to rob the bank because he was determined to avenge the deaths of those killed in the 1993 Waco, Texas, crisis involving the religious sect Branch Davidians.

"I wanted to spark a revolution. That is the truth,” Lay testified. "I've stood in the face of tyranny. I will continue to do so."

Lay’s attorney, federal public defender Sarah Jernigan, said there is a lot of other evidence for Lay’s mental illness.

“Mr. Lay’s delusions are well known and have been apparent to everyone who interacts with him for decades, so the state’s failure to initiate competency proceedings until now is inexplicable,” said Jernigan in a press release Thursday.

An expert for Jernigan, Dr. Richart DeMier, examined Lay in September and wrote that his “persecutory delusions center around false beliefs that there is a conspiracy among courts and possibly his attorneys to use his execution to silence him so that his explanations about the U.S. Constitution and the proper form of U.S. government do not come to light.”

Lay was allowed to represent himself at his trial by Judge Tom Gillert, a move that shocked his appointed public defender, Sid Conway.

In a declaration to the court, Conway described how Lay believes in a “tyrannical shadow government.”

“He expressed to me the belief that Satan, disguised as an alien, had contacted the governmental powerbrokers,” wrote Conway.

At least two other prisoners set to be executed by Oklahoma have claims to mental illness and learning disabilities.

Donald Grant, scheduled to die on Jan. 27, was diagnosed as schizophrenic by the state’s own expert. He murdered two women at a Del City hotel in 2001 but didn’t stand trial until 2005 due to being mentally unstable.

Gilbert Postelle, scheduled for execution Feb. 17, has an IQ in the 70s.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.