The State of Georgia is off to a barbaric, but not surprising, start on the New Year 2015. Andrew Brannan, 66, a decorated Vietnam War Veteran suffering from long-term PTSD was put to death by lethal injection at the prison in Jackson at 8:33 p.m. on Tuesday, January 13 -- the first execution of 2015 anywhere in the nation!
Brannan's attorneys argued that this combat veteran, who had served in Vietnam as a forward artillery observer, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and war flashbacks -- but none of that was adequately explained to the jury which heard his case. It seems that in Georgia extenuating circumstances have no relevance to the State's thirst for executions -- a thirst which, of course, can never be fully slaked.
None of these comments is intended to express any sympathy for someone who took the life of a young sheriff's deputy in 1998, who was shot nine times at a traffic stop. The killing of Kyle Dinkheller at twenty-two years of age is an awful tragedy and always will be. This needless loss is horrid and one can only hope that the execution of his killer provides some sense of closure to his family. Even so, two wrongs do not make a right -- never have, never will. And executing those with mental disabilities and severe mental trauma cannot be other than barbaric. Nor can any executions be other than state-sanctioned killings, which are no longer supported by most Americans.
It seems ironic that the terrorist killers at a French satirical magazine, had they survived a shootout with police, would not have been sentenced to death, as that practice has been banned in nearly all European nations for decades. Indeed, France and many other European countries have refused to allow extradition of Americans who might be sentenced to the death penalty here, due to crimes which rise to that magnitude in the United States. In Europe and other more-civilized parts of the world, it is believed that executions mostly encourage horrendous crimes, as the perpetrators then have little to lose when they are caught -- and that state-sponsored killings can only demean their nations and governments. There is no solid evidence of any deterrence effect from executions -- but there is substantial evidence that at least ten percent of those executed were innocent. It is truly a shameful practice.
None of that matters to the State of Georgia, though. My state has executed juveniles, retarded people, and the mentally-ill such as Andrew Brannan. One of Brannan's attorneys noted in his brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: "It is time for this court to recognize a categorical exemption from execution for American combat veterans whose service to this country resulted in severe mental trauma" which obviously contributed to the crime. While no state-sponsored executions can be justified on moral grounds, many of Georgia's executions egregiously violate all standards for civilized behavior and human decency.
Andrew Brannan fought valiantly for this nation in Vietnam, suffering the consequences of PTSD which are experienced by so many combat veterans. None of that justifies his killing of Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Dinkheller in the slightest. It does, however, justify some degree of clemency for Brannan -- clemency which was never granted. Two wrongs still do not make a right, even when it is the State of Georgia committing one of those wrongs.