Georgia has set an execution date for Andrew Brannan for next Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 7:00pm. Brannan, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of Laurens County (GA) Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller during a traffic stop. In Vietnam, Brannan saw death repeatedly, including that of comrades and two immediate commanding officers, and remained plagued with guilt over these deaths decades later. One of Brannan's immediate commanding officers died when he stepped on an explosive device, and upon hearing the explosion, Brannan rushed his team to the location and immediately assumed command of the company. His service records document praise for Brannan for “outstanding” conduct in a combat environment. Brannan received two Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star, one of the nation's highest awards for meritorious service in combat. Brannan had no prior criminal history and long before the crime had been declared 100% disabled by the Veterans Administration due to diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder. The traffic stop mentioned above escalated wildly into a gun fight between Brannan and Deputy Dinkheller after Brannan became erratic and pulled a rifle from his car. The episode was recorded on the dashboard recorder of the patrol vehicle and went viral on social media following the Ferguson, MO, shooting of Michael Brown, Jr. by Officer Darren Wilson in the fall of 2014.
Deputy Dinkheller died at the scene. Brannan was sentenced to death by a jury who never heard a firsthand account of the details of his meritorious service in Vietnam and never heard from his treating VA psychiatrist about how his exposure to severe combat violence caused him to develop PTSD to the point that he was deemed 100% disabled by the Veterans Administration. The jury also heard little about Brannan's dual diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and never heard that he had not taken his medication for several days before the crime, causing the symptoms of both mental illnesses to become more severe. Mr. Brannan's lawyers will present to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday, January 12 at 9:00am. The Parole Board is the entity in Georgia that has the sole authority to grant or deny clemency (either to commute, or reduce, a death sentence to life without parole.) Only after a person has exhausted all appeals and other avenues of relief will the Parole Board consider granting clemency.
This is clearly a tough situation for all parties in light of the mental illness issue and the fact that a law enforcement officer was killed in cold blood while performing his duties to protect and serve his community. I would allow the slain officer's family to make the decision under these circumstances. A stay of execution is probably not going to happen, however, in light of recent killings of officers in NY and across America. The GA parole board likely has very little compassion at this point.