Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker offers the following information in the case against Brandon Joseph Rhode, who is scheduled to be executed at 7:00pm on September 21, 2010 for the brutal murders of Steven Moss and Moss's two children, daughter Kristin, aged 15, and son Bryan, aged 11.
On September 7, 2010, the Superior Court of Jones County filed an order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Brandon Joseph Rhode may occur to begin at noon, September 21, 2010, and ending seven days later at noon on September 28, 2010. The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections then set the specific date and time for the execution as 7:00pm on September 21, 2010. Rhode has concluded his direct appeal proceedings and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.
Rhode’s Crimes (1998)
The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:
The evidence presented at trial suggested the following account of the crimes. Rhode and his co-perpetrator, Daniel Lucas, burglarized the home of Steven and Gerri Ann Moss on April 23, 1998, fled the scene when Rhode discovered an alarm system, and returned later that day to burglarize the home again. While Rhode and Lucas were ransacking the home searching for valuables, 11-year-old Bryan Moss arrived, observed Rhode and Lucas through a front window, and entered through a back door, armed with a baseball bat. Rhode and Lucas subdued Bryan at gunpoint, sat him in a chair, and began discussing what to do with him. Lucas turned and fired at the boy, inflicting a non-fatal shoulder wound. As Kristin Moss was approaching the house, Lucas took Bryan into a back bedroom. Rhode met Kristin as she arrived, sat her in a chair, and shot her twice with a .357 caliber pistol. Lucas repeatedly shot Bryan with a .25 caliber pistol. Rhode later shot Steven Moss with the .357 caliber pistol when Steven arrived. Finally, Lucas obtained a .22 caliber pistol from Rhode’s automobile and shot Bryan and Kristin again.
Chad Derrick Jackson, Rhode’s roommate, testified that he observed Rhode and Lucas handing rifles and other items out of Jackson and Rhode’s bedroom window and loading them into Rhode’s automobile on the evening of the crimes. Jackson further testified that Rhode and Lucas admitted to him the next day that Lucas first shot Bryan in the shoulder, that Lucas then shot Bryan while Rhode simultaneously shot Kristin, that Rhode next shot Steven Moss, and that lastly Lucas shot each victim to ensure their deaths.
Danny Ray Bell, who also lived in the same house as Rhode, testified that Rhode and Lucas spoke to him between the two burglaries and that Bell advised Rhode not to return to burglarize the same home. Bell testified that, at the time of this conversation, Rhode had a .357 caliber pistol in his waistband. According to Bell, when Rhode returned from the second burglary, Rhode said that he had "messed up big time" and needed to dispose of some weapons and other items. Rhode admitted to Bell that Lucas shot a young boy and that Rhode shot a girl and a man.
Several witnesses testified that they saw an automobile similar to Rhode’s at or near the victims’ home on the day of the murders. A search of Rhode’s automobile revealed damage to the front and rear bumpers and a spare tire in the trunk that showed signs of use. A photograph of the crime scene suggested a vehicle had backed into a gas tank at the victims’ home. Expert testimony disclosed that paint on a cement block at the victims’ home matched the paint on Rhode’s automobile, including two layers applied at the factory and a third layer likely applied later. Additional expert testimony indicated that a crime scene imprint could have been made by Rhode’s spare tire.
Rhode made a statement admitting he fired two times at Kristin with the .357 caliber pistol, and he led law enforcement officers to two locations where he and Lucas had secreted weapons and other items. Expert testimony matched the found .357 and .25 caliber pistols to bullets retrieved from the crime scene and the victims’ bodies.
Rhode v. State, 274 Ga. 377-378, 552 S.E.2d 855 (2001).
The Trial (1998-2000)
Rhode was indicted in the Superior Court of Jones County, Georgia on June 30, 1998 for three counts of malice murder, three counts of felony murder, two counts of burglary and one count of kidnapping with bodily injury. On February 25, 2000, following a jury trial, Rhode was convicted on all counts. The jury’s recommendation of a death sentence was returned on February 27, 2000.
The Direct Appeal (2001-2002)
The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Rhode’s convictions and sentences on October 1, 2001. Rhodev. State, 274 Ga. 377, 552 S.E.2d 855 (2001). Rhode filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on June 17, 2002. Rhode v. Georgia, 536 U.S. 925 (2002).
State Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2003-2007)
Rhode, represented by Brian Kammer, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia on April 3, 2003. Rhode filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 30, 2004. An evidentiary hearing was held on March 31, 2005. On March 16, 2006, the state habeas corpus court entered an order denying Rhode state habeas relief. Rhode’s application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal filed in the Georgia Supreme Court was denied on April 24, 2007.
Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2007-2009)
Rhode, represented by Brian Kammer, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on June 25, 2007. On September 9, 2008, the district court denied Rhode federal habeas corpus relief. The district court denied a motion to alter and amend judgment on November 5, 2008. The district court granted Rhode a certificate of appealability on January 20, 2009.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals (2009)
The case was orally argued before the Eleventh Circuit on September 10, 2009. On September 17, 2009, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion which denied relief. Rhodev. Hall, 582 F.3d. 1273 (11th Cir. 2009). Rhode filed a petition for panel rehearing, which was denied November 17, 2009.
United StatesSupreme Court (2010)
Rhode filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied June 7, 2010. Rhode v. Hall, 130 S.Ct. 3399 (2010). Rhode then filed a petition for rehearing in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on August 16, 2010. Rhode v. Hall, 2010 U.S. LEXIS 5635 (Case No. 09-10597).