« Senator Grassley queries DOJ concerning its work with Clemency Project 2014 | Main | With interesting 6-3 split, SCOTUS gives habeas petitioner a little win on appeal »

January 13, 2015

"Georgia executes Vietnam veteran who killed a sheriff's deputy"

The title of this post is the headline of this extended CNN report on the first execution in the United States in 2015.  Here are the details:

Andrew Brannan, a decorated Vietnam War veteran convicted of murdering a 22-year-old sheriff's deputy in 1998, was executed Tuesday, said Gwendolyn Hogan, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections.  Earlier in the day, the Georgia Supreme Court joined the state's parole board in declining to stop the execution....

Hogan said the court ordered execution was carried out at 8:33 pm ET.  She said a final statement was given, expressing remorse to the family of the slain deputy.

The state's high court had also denied Brannan's request for an appeal on the basis that it is unconstitutional to execute a person with his medical conditions and combat history.... Attorneys for the 66-year-old Brannan had hoped his sentence would be found unconstitutional.

His defense attorneys claim Brannan, who served in Vietnam in the early 1970s, was suffering from post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorder at the time of the shooting and was off his medication. In a petition filed Monday with Butts County Superior Court, Brannan's attorneys requested his life be spared because "executing American combat veterans whose service-related mental impairments played a role in subsequent violent conduct violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and analogous provisions of the Georgia Constitution."...

The killing of Laurens County Deputy Kyle Dinkheller was captured on the deputy's dash camera just outside Dublin, Georgia.... Brannan is seen in the video confronting Dinkheller after being pulled over for driving almost 100 mph in his pickup.

Brannan appears to be confrontational from the start, acting irrational as the deputy tells him to keep his hands out of his pocket.  He then mocks the deputy and at one point seems to dance around yelling, "Shoot me," at Dinkheller.  Brannan then yells that he is a Vietnam veteran.  He lunges at the deputy before he runs back to his truck, grabs a rifle and begins to shoot.

The video goes on to show a heated gunbattle as both men hide behind their vehicles for cover.  Bullets appear to pierce the windshield of the deputy's car.  Brannan's car door window shatters above his head.  In the video, Dinkheller and Brannan are shot and wounded in the battle.  Brannan advances on the deputy, and off camera, you hear the deputy scream before Brannan repeatedly shoots him and then flees the scene.  Dinkheller died, leaving behind a wife and child....

During the trial, attorney Kammer says the defense presented evidence that Brannan suffered from PTSD but claims that crucial testimony from a Veterans Affairs doctor treating him was never heard. His sentence was appealed, and a judge ordered a new sentencing trial, but that was later overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Dinkheller's father, Kirk Dinkheller, posted on his Facebook page this month that "January 12, 2015 it will be 17 years since my son Kyle was murdered in the line of duty and on January 13, 2015 his killer will finally be held accountable.  Nothing will ever bring my son back, but finally some justice for the one who took him from his children and his family."

Some related posts:

January 13, 2015 at 11:38 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Georgia executes Vietnam veteran who killed a sheriff's deputy":


I'm glad that we continue to execute only "the worst of the worst."

Posted by: anon | Jan 14, 2015 12:06:43 AM

"Bannan advances on the deputy, and off camera, you hear the deputy scream before Brannan repeatedly shoots him and then flees the scene."

If that isn't among the worst of the worst I truly have no idea what is. But I know...I know...he killed a bunch of people in the name of the American people so he should get at least one free murder on the home front too. It's the least a grateful society can offer. (deep sarcasm in that last sentence.)

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 14, 2015 3:03:53 AM

1. Gary Ridgway (Green River Killer) (25 brutal murders??)--life

2. David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) killed six --life

3. Dennis Rader (BTK killer)== Dennis Rader killed 10 people Rader bound, tortured and killed his victims and then sent letters to the police and news outlets bragging about his crimes.--life

4. Charles Cullen (killed at least 35 victims while working as a nurse- although the suspected number is actually in the hundreds)--life.

5. Wayne Williams (Atlanta child murders) Williams kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered 29 children.

6. Donald Harvey (the Angel of Death) killed between 37 to 57 people--life.

So Daniel, these folks are just some of "the worst of the worst," I do not think that our man here comes anywhere close, do you?

Posted by: anon | Jan 14, 2015 10:05:20 AM

anon makes an excellent point. Brannan does not make the list and is hardly "the worst of the worst." If the death penalty is reserved only for those, Mr. Brannan should have received life.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Jan 14, 2015 10:08:16 AM

"Free murder" = life (the guy was 66 and murdered a cop ... not likely to get out) imprisonment. He wouldn't be alone. Many states don't have a death penalty or nearly never hand it out. Often prosecutors or juries don't give it out either. We are dealing with some horrible crimes here. Free murders all.

Again, being a combat vet alone is not the concern here, and clearly Daniel (some might miss it, but it's in between the lines) is not claiming that. The lack of reference of the mental impairments and the clean background into his 50s or how the crime might have been triggered by it [cf. some combat vet who became a drug dealer and was charged for killing a witness to a drug buy or the killing of a child or numerous other crimes people on death row have done] might mislead, but let it not.

The quotation has the guy, allegedly in some sort of mentally deranged frenzy, shooting the guy repeatedly and then fleeing. If this is the "worse of the worst," I'm unsure how child murderers, thrill kills, robbery homicides and various others are. I assume when people murder, the victims are horrified and scream. That's part of why they don't get "free" murders. The killers get long prison sentences, often dying there. So harsh in fact that Doug Berman thinks they should have the right to euthanasia.

"Grateful society" should recognize how this particular person could have been affected by combat and not pick him among the narrow number of killers to be executed. He murdered someone and did not warrant "free" anything -- he warranted a prison cell. As to "justice," execution is rarely seen as required for killing people in this country, but if his family feels it was done, hopefully they can get whatever closure and help that offers. For many, that doesn't do it. In some cases, the murderer is executed anyway.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 14, 2015 10:17:07 AM

Anon, you could also add to your grisly list:

1. Juan Corona ( working on fruit ranches in California, Corona killed at least 25 men)serving multiple life sentences.

2. Paul Bernardo ( The Scarborough rapist) -- killed and raped at least 3 young women, raping many more women --life

3. And no list would be complete without Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer (May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994), also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal. He committed the rape, murder and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with many of his later murders also involving necrophilia, cannibalism and the permanent preservation of body parts—typically all or part of the skeletal structure. He was sentenced to life, but was murdered in prison.

Daniel, I hardly think Mr. Brannan comes close.

Posted by: Mary | Jan 14, 2015 10:20:35 AM

TL;DR: I take the child murderer type is the worst of the worse of the worst or something. As would people who did something particularly horrible but had no real mitigation. Murdering cops would be particularly aggravating, the argument is that his (complete) background mitigated it. Life imprisonment isn't "free."

Posted by: Joe | Jan 14, 2015 10:21:16 AM

I would put Richard Kuklinski on the list of "the worst of the worst".

"Best known as the Iceman, Kuklinski was a hit-man for the mob. He claimed to have murdered over 200 people, but that has never been verified. He used many different forms to kill people. Cyanide was his favorite. In 1988 he was sentenced to 5 life sentences for 5 murders and in 2003 he plead guilty to killing a New York detective adding another 30 years."

Posted by: anon14 | Jan 14, 2015 10:36:41 AM


All of your examples involved plea bargains or occurred in states that did not have the death penalty at the time of the crimes...save Berkowitz, who believed that his dog was giving him orders to kill people. Those circumstances are not present here. I'm not saying that Brannan is the "worst of the worst," but he certainly isn't undeserving of a death sentence.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jan 14, 2015 10:54:25 AM

Res ipsa. Washington State had the death penalty.
1. Gary Ridgway (Green River Killer) (25 brutal murders)--life.

This cretin got life. Brannan is like him?? Give me a break.

Posted by: res ipsa | Jan 14, 2015 11:49:28 AM

Res ipsa, what are you talking about?

Georgia has the death penalty.
Wayne Williams (Atlanta child murders) Williams kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered 29 children.

So what if life resulted from plea bargains. These cretins got life; Brannan got death. Where's the justice here for "the worst of the worst." Whether from jury verdict or prosecutorial discretion, so what?

And what about Kazinski (sp?) the mail bomber, preplanned sending bombs in the mail-I'd say the worst of the worst. Yet, life becuase of good lawyering and exercise of prosecutorial "discretion"? Something's rotten in the State of the U.S death penalty jurisprudence.

Posted by: anon2 | Jan 14, 2015 11:55:14 AM

Res ipsa, you say the "the examples involved plea bargains or occurred in states that did not have the death penalty." Donald Harvey's case were in Ohio and Kentucky both of which had the death penalty. And so what if the result of plea bargaining: that's the point. The prosecutors exercise "discretion" and rationalize away the crime--and for whatever reaons give multiple life terms to the worst of the worst, while they press for death for Brannan. I'm not persuaded that justice is being done.

Posted by: anon5 | Jan 14, 2015 12:04:11 PM

My bad, all...typo on my part...all of those cases involved a plea bargain OR a state that didn't have the death penalty at the time of the crime...aside from Berkowitz, whose dog apparently commanded him to kill people.

It's the conjunctions that get ya'...

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jan 14, 2015 2:24:07 PM

And what do the examples prove? They do not prove that Brannan was not among the wort of the worst; they prove that the others got off too easy.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 14, 2015 4:14:24 PM

Daniel writes, "They do not prove that Brannan was not among the wort of the worst; they prove that the others got off too easy." Everyone convicted of first degree murder has done something as bad as Brennan. Under your theory each qualifies as "the worst of the worst" which makes no sense.

Posted by: anon12 | Jan 14, 2015 4:25:27 PM


No, I don't think that's case. The language I quoted describes precisely why I think this crime was so heinous--he stalked the deputy even after the deputy was wounded and unable to fight back. Imagine that instead of doing that he had gotten in his truck and driven away and the deputy died from bleeding out. He still could have been convicted of 1st degree murder and yet I would not be arguing for the DP. His stalking behavior is what makes his behavior particular heinous in my eyes. He did not simply plan to kill the deputy, there was even more than "malice aforethought," he hunted him down and killed him will the guy was screaming. For me, that behavior separates him from the "ordinary" first degree murder.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 14, 2015 5:17:05 PM

He may not have been the worst of the worst. That just shows the lawyer is protecting the worst of the worst, that there should be 10,000 executions a year, from age 14, before they have killed 100 people, and by mandatory guideline, because judges owe their jobs to criminals, and will protect them.

But that would end crime and decimate lawyer make work jobs. And as to plea deals, LWOP for the solution and the bodies in dozens of cases, that is also evidence of lawyer stupidity. On death row, the condemned should be water boarded 12 hours a day until all his cases are solved. Instead of water, show him the can of gasoline.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 15, 2015 3:13:39 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB