Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Georgia First to Execute Prisoner in 2015

 The Death of Andrew Brannan

I’m so riled up about so much this week, I couldn’t possibly write about it all.  The tomfoolery under the gold dome has surpassed my expectations in just the first week. Even I was surprised that House Bill 1 regarding medical marijuana, the one I commended Representative Peake for in my column a couple of weeks ago, was dead on arrival.  Not surprising is that it appears the “Religious Freedom Preservation Act “ will dominate the session, unless a more discriminatory bill is introduced that brings even more professional homophobes to the Capitol.  I decided that I would have plenty of time to write about those subjects, so I decided to write about a dead issue.

Let’s celebrate!  Georgia is finally first in the nation for something.  Georgia holds the proud position of being the first State in the country to execute someone in 2015.  Andrew Brannan was executed on Tuesday, January 13, for the shooting death of a police officer in 1998.  “So what?” you say, “He deserved it.” 

That’s what I thought too, until I learned that Andrew Brannan was a highly decorated Viet Nam War hero.  He suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress (PTSD).  He was diagnosed and rated 100% for PTSD by the Veterans Administration (VA), in 1990.  That was long before PTSD was a household word and even the VA used the rating sparingly. Brannan returned from Viet Nam where he witnessed unspeakable things, but his mind stayed on the battlefield.  Andrew Brannan was sick.  His service to our country and to us as a people, made him sick.

I’m not suggesting that all veterans who kill someone should get a free pass.  What I’m saying is that PTSD should be taken into consideration when the death penalty is on the table.  In Mr. Brannan’s case, it was barely mentioned at his trial and his psychiatrist treating him at the VA was not called upon to testify at the trial.  I feel this was an injustice, not only to Mr. Brannan, but also to all veterans.  However, since I am a firm believer in our justice system, I felt that ultimately the final decision makers; the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles would right the wrong. 

I’ve been following the case of Andrew Brannan very closely now for a few months.  I have first hand knowledge of this case.  Someone very close to me is a veterans’ advocate and highly experienced in working with vets suffering from PTSD.  This person was part of the team fighting to have Brannan’s death sentence commuted to life in prison.   All of the attorneys and advocates involved in this case worked tirelessly for this veteran pro bono because they also believe in our justice system. 

My faith in our justice system has now been tested.  The clemency hearing was held on Monday morning, January 12. Board Members most probably rushed off to attend Governor Deal’s inaugural festivities being held just across the street.   After all, who could blame them?  They were there on official business with all expenses paid; why not attend the celebration? That evening, the Board announced they upheld the death sentence for Mr. Brannan.

The very next day, Tuesday, Brannan was killed by lethal injection.  Andrew Brannan AND  the heroic police officer he shot were both casualties of war.

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