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Taco Bell crash attorneys await  judge's ruling on insanity plea
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Oliver Baylen Cope

Prosecutors and attorneys are awaiting a judge’s order regarding whether to accept an insanity plea by a man accused of killing one and wounding several people in September 2017 when he crashed his car into a Swainsboro Taco Bell restaurant.

Oliver Baylen Cope, now 19, pled not guilty by reason of insanity in an Emanuel County courtroom in February. 

Since then, both Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Heyward Altman and Cope’s attorney Dan Snipes agreed, after reviewing three separate, independent reports from psychiatrists, that Cope was not sane when he drove across several lanes of traffic and crashed into the building, said Kristen Hall, Emanuel County Clerk of Courts.

The district attorney’s office secured reports from two doctors, while Cope’s attorneys sought the opinion of a third doctor. All three reports were in agreement, she said.

Both the prosecution and defense presented the findings to Emanuel County Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer, who has yet to declare a ruling, she said.

Snipes said late Friday he had not received any word from the judge on the matter.

Cope, of Old River Road North, faces five civil complaints by victims and their families, as well as two felony murder charges, eight criminal charges of aggravated assault and a first-degree criminal damage to property charge after what Swainsboro police said was an intentional act. He crossed four lanes of traffic and slammed into a Taco Bell, killing 23-year-old Macy Lynn Purvis Mullis of Adrian, Georgia, on Sept. 28.

Several others were injured, including a man and a 7-year-old boy, who were critically injured.

In February, attorneys stated in court that they planned to submit an insanity defense and asked that Cope remain in a mental hospital until his trial.

At the time, Snipes provided the Statesboro Herald a copy of the filing, a “notice of intent of defense to raise the issue of the defendant’s insanity and delusional compulsion at the time of the alleged crimes.”

The filing alleges that on Sept. 28, at the time of the fatal crash into the building, Cope “did not have capacity to distinguish between right and wrong” and was “acting under a delusion that overmastered his will to resist committing any acts which are criminal.”

Snipes said Friday he would not comment further on Cope’s condition, but said more information would be available following the judge’s ruling.

Hall said no date has been set for Palmer’s decision.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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