Judge to rule on insanity plea after deadly Taco Bell crash in Swainsboro

Judge to decide whether to grant insanity plea after fatal Taco Bell crash in Swainsboro

EMANUEL COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - There’s been a turn in the case against a teenager accused of driving into a crowded restaurant last fall in Swainsboro.

Prosecutors joined the defense in asking the defendant to be ruled insane.

It was an emotional Wednesday afternoon of testimony from victims and loved ones on how the tragedy has changed their lives. Meanwhile, the judge must decide what to do with the defendant.

Oliver Cope went to court still facing charges of murder and more in the September 2017 crash where he’s accused of driving his car into a crowded Taco Bell. The impact sent four people to the hospital and killed one person - Macy Mullis. Her mother told Cope and the court what the crash had done to her.

“You destroyed everything that was mine. My life will never be the same. Never,” said Susan Kuene, the victim’s mother.

District Attorney Hayward Altman told Judge Kathy Palmer that three separate psychiatric evaluations found Cope incompetent to stand trial by reason of insanity. His attorney told the court how a misdiagnosis of a mental illness and the wrong medication had made his delusions even worse. He said the crash was another in a line of Cope’s attempts to kill himself. Both sides asked the judge to rule not guilty by reason of insanity.

“I’ve been doing this 30 plus years,” Altman said. “This is the second or third, well, maybe the fifth or sixth case where we reached this conclusion. When you have three psychiatrists independent of each other come back with the same conclusion, along with witnesses, then I have a moral imperative to do the right thing."

Cope would likely remain in custody of some sort. Macey’s mother told Cope she’d wondered if she could ever forgive him for what he did, even with his illness.

“And I don’t know,” she said. “But I know one thing. It won’t be today.”

Cope will remain in lockdown at a mental hospital as the judge considers her decision. It will be up to her to decide Cope’s fate.

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