Defense claims Malone incompetent to face penalty phase of re-trial

Lawton_Ricky Ray Malone, convicted of murdering Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Nik Green, was the focus of a competency hearing in Comanche County District Court in Lawton on Monday.  Malone killed Green during a traffic stop just after Christmas, 2003.  A jury convicted Malone, recommending the death penalty, and he was sentenced to death in 2005.  But in 2007, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the sentence.

District Attorney Robert Schulte told 7News that Malone's legal team believes he is incompetent to face the penalty phase of his re-trial.  The defense claims that Malone is mentally ill, and it prevents him from assisting in his own defense.  They claim that while he understands his rights, they have been having a difficult time communicating with him.  Now, they want a state-ordered psychologist to evaluate whether he is competent to stand a sentencing re-trial.

Trooper Nik Green's dash-cam taped the entire scene of his murder on a Cotton County road.  After a struggle, Malone got a hold of Green's weapon and shot him twice in the back of his head as he prayed for his life.  Malone was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in July of 2005, but in September, 2007, a criminal court of appeals overturned the sentence removing him from death row.

District Attorney Robert Schulte says that requests for psychological evaluations are not rare.  "It's an application that we see on a regular basis," he says.  "Especially in a case of this magnitude."  Schulte has let the application proceed.  "We do not agree with the application that this individual is incompetent," he says.  "What we are trying to do, by agreeing to have him evaluated, is to prevent this being an appealable issue at a later date."  Malone's defense attorneys have declined to comment.

The competency examination will occur at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAllester sometime in July, and the defense has 30 days to return the results.  At that point, the judge will determine when a post-competency hearing will take place.  Malone has a right to a jury trial on the issue of his competency, and all criminal proceedings will be on hold until the competency issue is resolved.  If the jury finds him incompetent, it would hold the criminal proceedings for that period of time until Malone is again evaluated and found competent to stand trial.

Count on 7News to keep you updated on this case.