JACKSON -- Andrew Howard Brannan was put to death Tuesday night for killing a Laurens County sheriff’s deputy in 1998.
Brannan was pronounced dead at 8:33 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison.
As Brannan was administered a dose of pentobarbital, members of slain Laurens County Deputy Kyle Dinkheller’s family, as well as a large contingent of law enforcement officials watched silently.
It was unknown if any of Brannan’s family attended the execution. Earlier in the day, he visited with five relatives, a pastor, a friend and his attorney. Shortly before his execution, Brannan was given a sedative.
Brannan was convicted of murder after the January 1998 shooting of Dinkheller, who had pulled Brannan over during a traffic stop.
In his final statement, Brannan mentioned Dinkheller’s family.
“I want to send my condolences to the Dinkheller family, especially his parents, his wife and his two children,” Brannan said.
Brannan described his time on death row as “torture.”
“I feel like my status was slow torture for the last 15 years,” he said. “I had to say that with them here. I know (the department) doesn’t have much money, and they do the best they can, but I have to tell the truth. I’m certainly glad to be leaving.”
A pastor then said a prayer.
Brannan requested a last meal consisting of three eggs over easy, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, sausage, pecan waffles with strawberries, milk, apple juice and decaffeinated coffee.
One of Brannan’s final appeals for a stay of execution on the grounds of post-traumatic stress disorder was denied 6-1 Tuesday by the Georgia Supreme Court, which also ruled against his appeal of a Butts County court order to dismiss his claim.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Brannan a stay of execution at 7:45 p.m., which allowed the execution to take place.
The execution took about 14 minutes. Brannan, who was strapped to a table by his arms and chin at an inclined angle, moved little. His breathing slowed and then quickened before becoming more shallow. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times, and the color drained from his face.
Brannan became the 33rd inmate in Georgia to be put to death by lethal injection. He’s also the 56th person to be executed in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973.
With Brannan’s death, there are 83 men and one woman on death row in Georgia.
Brannan’s execution came 17 years and one day after he shot Dinkheller to death after a verbal confrontation turned deadly during a traffic stop in Laurens County.
On Jan. 12, 1998, Dinkheller pulled over Brannan’s truck after he clocked Brannan driving 98 mph on Interstate 16.
During the traffic stop, which was captured on the dashboard camera in Dinkheller’s patrol car, the 22-year-old deputy asked Brannan to step away from his pickup several times.
Brannan quickly became confrontational, shouting to Dinkheller that he was a Vietnam veteran and at one point dancing alongside his pickup. Dinkheller ordered Brannan several times to desist and keep his hands out of his pockets.
Brannan then reached into the cab of his truck, pulled out a high-powered assault rifle and fired multiple times at the deputy. Dinkheller’s screams are clearly audible on the video as he continued to order Brannan to stop.
Investigators later concluded that Dinkheller was hit multiple times, including twice in the back, twice in the head and once in the left side of his chest. A GBI crime scene specialist testified that Brannan fired 30 times. Dinkheller fired his weapon 26 times, hitting Brannan once in the abdomen.
After killing Dinkheller, Brannan got into his pickup and sped away, the video showed. He was later found hiding about 100 yards away from his house and made several incriminating statements to investigators.
Brannan told GBI investigators he felt threatened by Dinkheller.
“I told him I feared for my life, that I was scared, that I was a Vietnam veteran,” he said in an interview tape played at trial.
A court-appointed psychiatrist testified that Brannan was sane after a defense psychiatrist testified that Brannan was suffering from a Vietnam flashback during the shooting.
It took a jury just four hours to convict Brannan of murder and another four hours to sentence him to death in 2000.
The Georgia Supreme Court upheld Brannan’s conviction and death sentence in 2002.
Arguing that Brannan’s legal counsel was ineffective for failing to argue several mental health issues, attorneys for the Georgia Resource Center filed a writ of habeas corpus in 2003. In 2008, the state habeas corpus court issued an order that rescinded the death penalty. However, the state appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which unanimously reversed the order and reinstated the death penalty.
Other attempts at the federal level to overturn the death penalty also were overturned, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2014.
Brannan’s appeal for clemency was denied Monday by the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Former Laurens County Sheriff Kenny Webb spoke at the clemency hearing, as did members of Dinkheller’s family.
“I think it will bring closure not only for me, but the whole department and (Dinkheller’s) family,” Webb said in a phone interview Monday. “I don’t think it’s ever going to get easier. This whole thing has brought up a lot of memories, watching the video and going through the testimony.”
Webb said Dinkheller’s death factored into his decision not to seek re-election in 2003. After he left office, Webb worked with the state Department of Corrections and later moved to Leesburg as a court security officer at the federal courthouse there. He said working on the correctional and judicial side of the law hasn’t altered his view about Brannan’s fate.
“I believe strongly in the death penalty, especially in a situation like this,” he said.
Before Brannan was executed, Webb said, “if he’s executed (Tuesday) night, it will feel like justice is complete in this case.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.