The state of Georgia executed a 66 year old Vietnam veteran by lethal injection tonight for the murder of a sheriff’s deputy in 1998. Andrew Brannan was a decorated veteran who suffered from PTSD and was not on his medication at the time of the tragic killing of the young deputy. There is a YouTube video, which I won’t share here, which shows the erratic and unexplained behavior by Brannan when he was pulled over by Kyle Dinkheller. Brannan had no prior criminal record prior to the incident where he is seen charging at Dinkheller for no reason, yelling that he is a Vietnam Vet and ultimately and tragically going to his truck where he retrieved a rifle and started shooting at Dinkheller.
At trial testimony was heard that Brannan was likely suffering from a flashback from his combat time during the incident. The video seems to support this theory even as it shares the harrowing events with audio of Dinkheller after he is shot the first time and Brannan coming back over to the police vehicle and shooting at Dinkheller again while the slain man screams. It is tragic and awful and the desire of Dinkheller’s family to see Brannan suffer or die for his actions is understandable. What I cannot understand is how our country can still carry out legal executions simply to fulfill the emotional drive for vengeance. The death penalty does not prevent crime; specifically not the types of crimes to which it is applied, it is irreversible in the case of wrongful conviction, and as in this case it is too often applied to those who despite their horrific crimes are victims themselves. Andrew Brannan was a veteran of one of our most horrific wars; he suffered from mental illness so acutely that he was deemed 100% disabled by it and now he is dead by the hand of the State of Georgia.
I can only seek solace in the words of a man I respect and admire tremendously, Professor Bryan Stevenson, a death penalty lawyer, a human of profound empathy and a teacher of the next generation of lawyers, “We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent….The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent-strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.” Executing the most broken among us will never make us whole. As Professor Stevenson says, “There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.” Despite what vengeance may fool some into believing, the world is not a better place tonight now that the government has killed Andrew Brannan. It is simply a more broken place.