OKLAHOMA CITY – A man accused of fatally stabbing his father, Oklahoma's former labor commissioner, was ordered Wednesday to undergo a mental examination to determine if he is competent after he told a judge he wants to plead guilty to first-degree murder.
Christian Costello, 27, told Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott that he wants to plead guilty in the Aug. 23 death of his father, former Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, during an rambling address in which he said he wants to be incarcerated in Minnesota so he can be treated by a doctor there who he last saw about 10 years ago.
"I would like to sign a guilty plea," said Costello, who appeared gaunt and ashen as he stood before Elliott in a black-and-gray prison-issued jumpsuit with chain-like shackles on his wrists and ankles.
"I'd like to be sent to a prison" in Minnesota, Costello said.
His defense attorney, Public Defender Bob Ravitz, asked Elliott to order a competency evaluation and said Costello does not understand the consequences of entering a guilty plea, including the fact that the judge has no authority to confine him to a prison in Minnesota.
"Mr. Costello has a history of mental illness," Ravitz said. He said Costello suffers from delusions that may interfere with his ability to make a rational decision. Court records show Costello previously spent 90 days in a mental health facility and has taken mood stabilizers.
"I don't think he totally understands the ramifications of any decision he makes," Ravitz said.
Elliott ordered state psychiatrists to examine Costello to determine if he understands the accusations against him and can assist his attorney in his defense. Elliott scheduled another hearing in the case on Aug. 10.
Prosecutors allege Costello attacked his father with a knife and repeatedly stabbed him at an Oklahoma City restaurant. Witnesses said the attack continued after Mark Costello ran into the parking lot where his wife, Cathy Costello, tried to intervene.
Police say they interviewed at least 17 witnesses, all of whom said they saw Christian Costello stabbing his father with a small knife.
Costello has pleaded not guilty to the charge. First-degree murder is punishable by life in prison with or without parole or the death penalty.
Following the hearing, Ravitz told reporters he believes Costello was legally insane when the attack occurred and did not know right from wrong.
"There's no way in the world he knew what he was doing," Ravitz said. He said he would enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for Costello if he would authorize it.
Costello was badly beaten in March by two inmates at the Oklahoma County Jail, and Ravitz said he believes confinement in a state prison would be tantamount to a death sentence for Costello.
Ravitz said he learned Monday that Costello was seriously injured in a car accident as a child and may have suffered brain damage. He said the physician who treated Costello in Minnesota is a pediatrician who Costello claims conferred upon him the rank of 32nd degree mason in a period of just four days.
"It's another delusion that he has," Ravitz said.