Brandon Rhode Executed After Suicide Attempt Left Him Brain Damaged

Court denied stay over claim that suicide attempt left him brain damaged.

September 27, 2010, 12:14 PM

Sept. 27, 2010 — -- Brandon Joseph Rhode, a man whose recent suicide attempt left him brain damaged, was executed in Georgia tonight, after the state and U.S. supreme courts both denied last minute requests for stays.

Rhode, 31, was put to death by lethal injection at the state prison at Jackson. Prison officials pronounced him dead at 10:16 p.m.

He had been scheduled for execution at 7 p.m., but his lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that Rhode was subjected to inhumane treatment and was not mentally competent to be executed.

The high court did not decide to reject the plea for a stay until 8 p.m.

Rhode's lawyers appealed to the high court after the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected the last minute argument that the man's recent suicide attempt left him too brain damaged to justify his execution.

The state court's denial of the stay of execution came after a recommendation by the Georgia State Attorney General that the court deny the request shortly after it was filed by Rhode's lawyer, Brian Kammer.

According to the documents obtained by, Kammer referred to Rhode's impending execution as "nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering."

"The execution of Mr. Rhode is nothing less than a descent into brutality," the legal brief argued.

"The threat of execution has pushed Mr. Rhode's limited coping skills to the breaking points," wrote Kammer. "Upon information and belief, he is no longer competent to be executed."

Kammer's appeal came after last week's suicide attempt by Rhode just hours before Rhode was originally scheduled to be executed.

Rhode was found in an observation cell at the infirmary of the Georgia Diagnostic Prison with his arms and neck slashed with "deep gaping wounds," according to court documents.

Rhode, according to the court documents, is believed to have used a razor blade to "make deep cuts into the veins in his arms and neck, while underneath a blanket, ostensibly in view of two prison guards."

"He was unconscious for undetermined amount of time, lost control of his bowels, and entered hemorrhagic shock- acondition associated with prolonged oxygen deprivation to the brain which may well have resulted in severe brain damage, adding to brain impairments with which Mr. Rhode has already been diagnosed," wrote Kammer.

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker urged the court to reject the petition and said that Rhode had made it clear on more than one occasion that he is aware of his death sentence.

According to court documents filed by Baker's office, witnesses testified that Rhode told him he attempted suicide because " he wanted to make the decision how he died."

"He said he wanted to do it himself so he would not be put down like a dog. He said that they were going to try to put him down like a dog, that what was going to be used on him wouldn't even be used on a dog," according to court documents.

Rhode said that he thought it was a "waste of money" for the hospital to resuscitate him after his suicide attempt because "he was just going to be fixed up to be killed," according to court documents.

In other court documents filed last week, Kammer argued that prison guards failed to "take reasonable steps to prevent his suicide attempt."

"[Prison employees] have demonstrated an inability to protect death-sentenced prisoners from self-harm and sucide in the time leading up to scheduled executions," said Kammer.

Brandon Joseph Rhode Executed in Georgia

Rhode is the 25th person put to death by lethal injection in the state, and the 48th person put to death by the state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Rhode was convicted in 2000 for a triple-murder of a father and his two young kids during a robbery of their Georgia home. He was 20 at the time he commited the crime.

Rhode did not request a final meal and received the standard meal tray being served at the prison. His final meal consisted of a chili dog, tater tots, carrots, cole slaw, a slice of cake, and fruit punch.

Rhode's execution came on the heels of another high-profile execution in Virginia last week that also brought into question the legality or at least the morality of executing offenders with limited mental capacity.

Teresa Lewis, 41, died by lethal injection on Sept. 24, putting an end to a long debate over whether Lewis deserved to die, with supporters saying she was borderline mentally retarded, despite the prosecution's claim that she was the mastermind of her husband's and stepson's murders.

Lewis' final words were a message for the daughter of the husband she had killed.

"I just want Kathy to know that I love her, and I'm very sorry," she said.

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