On January 12, 1998 a simple traffic stop on an empty Georgia road ended in a shootout between Andrew Brannan and Sheriff Deputy Kyle Dinkheller. Deputy Dinkheller stopped Mr. Brannan for driving 100 mph, but Mr. Brannan quickly became agitated and shot the Deputy nine times, killing him. The video from the dashboard camera is brutal. Deputy Dinkheller left behind a wife and young child. Mr. Brannan has been tried and convicted. Now, his defense attorneys, Brian S. Kammer and L. Joseph Loveland Jr. are working non-stop to obtain a stay of execution. As of right now, Mr. Brannan is scheduled to be executed tomorrow, on January 13, 2015 at 7:00pm.
There is more to this story than meets the eye. Mr. Brennan is not the monster portrayed in the dashboard camera video. In 1968, Andrew Brannan volunteered for the U.S. Army. He served in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971 as a Forward Observer in the artillery unit of the 23rd Infantry Division. Mr. Brannan saw combat, suffering, and death at close range. As a First Lieutenant he was a critical leader whose job came with intense pressure and responsibility. Mr. Brannan received two Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star for his service. And, like thousands of his fellow combat veterans, Mr. Brannan came home with a severe, debilitating mental illness – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When he came home he began to act and speak bizarrely. He avoided people and eventually moved alone into a structure he built in the woods near Dublin, Georgia.
There is no question that Mr. Brennan’s combat experience caused his PTSD. He received a diagnosis of 100% disability due to PTSD from Veterans Affairs. Borrowing from Minneapolis, Minnesota criminal defense attorneys Brockton Hunter and Ryan Else’s book, The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court, Mr. Kammer and Mr. Loveland Jr. argue in their Petition for Habeas Corpus that it is unjust to train our soldiers to behave a certain way – to kill instinctively, to rationalize killing another human, and to become desensitized to the act – and then execute them for behaving that way. It is the height of hypocrisy for our government to execute a man they conditioned to kill. As such, veterans whose combat trauma can reasonably be tied to their criminal offense should be categorically excluded from receiving the death penalty, similar to the way we treat juveniles and the intellectually disabled. One of our attorneys, Joshua London makes the same argument in a piece he wrote soon to be published titled Why Are We Killing Veterans? The Repugnance and Incongruity of the U.S. Government Executing Psychologically Wounded Veterans.
The United States Supreme Court jurisprudence seeks “to ensure that only the most deserving of execution are put to death. . .“ Atkins v. Virginia 536 U.S. 304, 319 (2002). Mr. Brannan’s exemplary military service and his severe and persistent mental illness make him and other combat veterans, undeserving of the death penalty. We hope the Superior Court of Butts County Georgia will consider Mr. Kammer and Mr. Loveland’s argument and who or what was to blame for the Officer Dinkheller’s unfortunate death.
“The painful paradox is that fighting for one’s country can render one unfit to be its citizen”
— Jonathon Shay, M.D., Ph.D.