A Vietnam Veteran with PTSD is the First US Execution of 2015

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JACKSON, Georgia – In the first execution carried out in the US in 2015, last night Georgia put to death a decorated Vietnam War veteran who had been diagnosed with severe mental illness before he killed a deputy sheriff after a traffic stop in 1998.

On Tuesday, at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, 66-year-old Andrew Brannan received visits from five family members, one friend and a pastor. He told reporters that he had been “in a status of slow torture” in the decade and a half since the crime, and said he was not sad to be leaving the prison.

Outside the facility, guards cordoned off one area of the wet, cold grass for anti-death penalty activists. A different section was designated for members of law enforcement who came to honor the memory of slain Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller. But the feelings on the execution between the two groups were not so clearly separated. Some in law enforcement seemed genuinely concerned about Brannan’s history as a veteran.

“There were a lot of troubling things that happened back then,” said Tom McCain, a close colleague of Dinkheller’s. “Not only did [soldiers] have to deal with the horrors of war but they came back to a country that didn’t appreciate them.” McCain added that he had “no problem” with Brannan’s execution, but he also questioned the death penalty in general. He praised Dinkheller as an officer deeply concerned about ethics in law enforcement. “I miss the hell out of him.”

That Brannan killed deputy Dinkheller 17 years ago is not disputed. A camera in the deputy’s police vehicle caught the confrontation between the two men after Dinkheller pulled Brannan over for going 98 miles an hour in his white pickup truck. The two pulled off Interstate 16 and onto a rural, tree-lined stretch of road.

In the video, the two men get out of their vehicles and initially exchange pleasantries. Dinkheller instructs Brannan to take his hands out of his pockets.

“Fuck you, goddamnit! Here I am, shoot my fu$king ass!” Brannan yells, dancing and flailing his arms in the street. “Here I am, shoot me!” he sings as he dances. Brannan rushes toward Dinkheller, and the officer orders him to step back. “I am a goddamn Vietnam veteran!” says Brannan.

The veteran then returns to his car and rummages inside of it. Dinkheller yells, “I am in fear for my life!”

Brannan emerges with a .30 caliber M1 carbine. In the ensuing shootout, Deputy Dinkheller was hit at least nine times. He left behind a young child and an expectant wife.

Brannan was found hiding in the woods the next morning, with a gunshot wound to his abdomen.

In 2000, a jury in Laurens County, a quiet region in southeast Georgia known for historical architecture and deer hunting, found Brannan guilty of malice murder and recommended the death penalty. The video was a key piece of evidence. Since then, it has been been widely shown in police academies to train cops on how routine traffic stops can spiral out of control.

But lawyers for Brannan have argued that the jury did not understand well the journey that led him to that January confrontation. It was one marked by survivor’s guilt, personal loss, isolation and increasingly severe diagnoses for mental illness following a short but intense time serving in the Vietnam War. Though several medical professionals testified at trial, Brannan’s VA psychiatrist did not. Atlanta defense attorney Joe Loveland, who did not represent Brannan at trial, said he believes the psychiatrist’s testimony, and the fact that Brannan had not taken his prescribed medications in the period leading up to the murder, should have been presented to the jury.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. @Mary1011 …… It is sad. It’s sad that a vet with known PTSD id put to death, while cops who claim to be in full possession of their faculties are allowed to murder people and get put back on the job.

    Up is down; down is up.

  2. The PTSD label is a double edge sword. There seems to be a lingering effort to keep veterans under the watchful eye of the psychiatric police.
    More acronyms are more labels and more labels are more drugs and more drugs are efficient for many things if one seeks to direct the herd.
    Something to keep an eye on. Any moves to discredit veterans as irrational or to deem them in need of “watching” could potentially indicate the insertion of control mechanisms. Killing needs to stop. So does herding.

    • When young men and women join the armed services they miss a lot of the zio-con indoctrination leveled at young people in schools and colleges. Their role in the firing line also requires them to keep their feet on the ground and live in the REAL world rather than the imaginary bubble of the zio-sphere. This means that they are subsequently able to smell bullcrap from 100 yards distance as they get older. This automatically makes them a danger and a problem for the new world order planners as they return to the highly warped civilian environment. I think that PTSD is to some degree part of that disconnect.

  3. The killing of a police officer is a serious and grave matter – however there is something repulsive about this execution. Firstly, after a long period of no executions whatsoever, why was this man selected to be killed before all the others? Many of them no doubt complete slime buckets – that are also waiting in line for their appointment? Child killers, drug dealers, serial killers live – serviceman Brannan dies.

    I can think of a few people that are not even in prison that should have gone first. Clemency should be reserved for cases such as this. Mental illness, a previous debt owed by the nation for service, or extenuating circumstances. I smell a political rat.

  4. What a sad, poignant true story. Two men’s lives ruined. I have a brilliant son with an IQ over 160 & he has bi-polar. Trying to get any decent treatment is futile in this country, I know as I have tried everything and spent tens of thousands of dollars. Mental illness doesn’t justify crime, but people who are mentally ill get to a breaking point because there is really nothing that works for them. Again, so sorry for both families mentioned in this story.

  5. Reminds of how In 1992, Bill Clinton put to death a mentally impaired black man, so he could get elected with a ‘tough on crime’ theme. Ricky Rector did not even realise he was being put to death … he told executioners he was saving his pecan pie dessert of his last meal, for ‘after my lethal injection’. 1994 BBC documentary on this, ravaging Clinton, ‘The Killer and the Candidate’, is hard to find now.

    USA had zero executions for 10 years, 1967-77, blocked by the judges of that era, till Jimmy Carter helped push through firing squad shooting of Gary Gilmore. … EU does fine with no death penalty, less crime than US, & only 1 out of 1000 in prison instead of US 1 out of 140 … Why can’t the USA go back to the 67-77 moratorium?

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