Execution delayed for death row inmate who attempted suicide

The Georgia Supreme Court has delayed tonight's execution of Brandon Rhode, who tried to kill himself Tuesday morning. It has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Rhode's attorney, Brian Kammer, filed a motion for an emergency stay after learning of his client's suicide attempt, arguing "Mr. Rhode is incompetent to be executed and his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment."

In the motion, Kammer said he received no information regarding his client's whereabouts or condition. "Execution of Mr. Rhode ... does not comport with [Department of Corrections] lethal injection protocols and is nothing less than a ‘descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint.' "

Granting of the stay gives Rhode the opportunity to file an application challenging his mental competency to be executed, court spokeswoman Jane Hansen said.

Rhode would be the 25th person in Georgia to die by lethal injection and the 48th the state has executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973.

The 31-year-old was convicted in the 1998 murders of an 11-year-old boy, 15-year-old girl and their father, Steven Moss, a trucking company owner who caught Rhode and an accomplice, Daniel Lucas, burglarizing the family's Jones County residence. Lucas remains on death row.

Rhode was denied clemency last Friday by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. His attorneys argued that Lucas killed the victims and that Rhode's life should be spared because he suffered brain damage as a child.

His former roommate, Chad Jackson, testified in 2000 that Rhode and Lucas told him they had both shot the victims. Another friend, Danny Ray Bell, told police that Rhode confessed to him that he had shot a girl and a man.

Rhode's suicide was the second attempt reported on Georgia's death row this year. On Jan. 1, guards at the state prison in Jackson found 35-year-old Leeland Mark Braley hanging in his cell. Prison officials say Braley, sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder of a Zebulon insurance agent, apparently took his own life.

--Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this report