Oklahoma prisoner Wade Lay (pictured) will not be executed on June 6, 2024 as scheduled because a Pittsburg County judge has found him mentally incompetent to be executed. “The available evidence demonstrates, by a preponderance or greater weight of the evidence, that Mr. Lay is currently incompetent to be executed according to the governing legal standards,” Judge Tim Mills wrote. Defense and state experts who examined Mr. Lay found that, due to his schizophrenia, delusions, and paranoia, he lacks a rational understanding of the reason for his execution, and the state concedes that he is incompetent.  

Callie Heller, one of Mr. Lay’s attorneys, said in a statement, “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.” She explained, “Wade firmly believes that his execution is part of a wide-ranging government conspiracy aimed at silencing him.” State law requires that Mr. Lay be assessed periodically for competency, but his attorneys say that he is unlikely to be rendered competent. Ms. Heller said, “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.”  

Although Mr. Lay had severe mental illness at the time of the crime, he was allowed to represent himself at trial. The trial judge did not order a mental health evaluation and did not appoint standby counsel to assist him with the complexities of a capital trial. Mr. Lay’s 19-year-old son, who was convicted for his role in the same crime, was sentenced to life without parole. 


Ken Miller, Oklahoma death row inmate who killed a bank guard is incom­pe­tent for exe­cu­tion, judge says, Associated Press, May 10, 2024; Nolan Clay, Death row inmate Wade Lay spared from exe­cu­tion because of men­tal state, The Oklahoman, May 102024

Read the press release from Mr. Lay’s attor­neys here