Georgia board declines to spare Vietnam veteran the death penalty

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 12, 2015 10:03 PM

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Attorneys for a decorated Vietnam War veteran who is due to be executed for the killing of a sheriff's deputy lost a bid on Monday to have a Georgia parole board spare his life, officials said.

The execution of Andrew Brannan, 66, by lethal injection is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday. He is slated to be the first person executed in the United States in 2015, the Death Penalty Information Center said.

Brannan's lawyers asked the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence to life without parole because he was suffering from a combat-related mental disorder when he killed Laurens County Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller, 22, during a traffic stop in 1998.

The board said in a statement it denied the clemency request after thoroughly reviewing it and hearing testimony on Monday.

Brannan still has appeals pending in Georgia courts. By law, Georgia's governor does not have the power to grant last-minute clemency to a death row inmate.

The inmate's lawyers do not dispute he shot Dinkheller nine times during a traffic stop in an encounter caught on tape by the deputy's patrol car camera.

But they urged the parole board to consider the physical and mental toll of his combat duty in Vietnam.

Brannan received Army commendations and a Bronze Star for his service as an officer, his lawyer, Brian Kammer, said last week.

He was on full Army disability for post-traumatic stress disorder and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder before killing Dinkheller, Kammer said.

Brannan pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity at his trial. Some experts testified that during the shooting, he suffered a flashback from combat. But a court-appointed psychiatrist said Brannan was sane and may have killed the deputy because he believed the officer was being disrespectful.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Peter Cooney)