KNOXVILLE, TENN., SEPT. 3 -- Jim Brandon, 35, is the only person who can authorize hospital officials to disconnect his brain-dead wife's life support system. If he does, Brandon, in jail on charges of beating her, will be charged with murder.

"It's a new one on me," said General Sessions Court Judge Robert McGee, who ordered Brandon held in lieu of $100,000 bond. "This is all a very interesting question to me."

"This man stands to be greatly jeopardized and imperiled, yet he is the one empowered to make the decision that will lead to that action," McGee said. "According to the officers, the lady is not physically dead. As long as the person is alive, I cannot sign the murder warrant."

Brandon was charged early today with aggravated assault on his wife, Claudette, 41. Police said Claudette Brandon was left at St. Mary's Medical Center early Tuesday by her husband and a motorist who had passed their house and stopped.

Brandon told police that his wife, missing since Sunday, had appeared Tuesday morning nude and beaten on their front porch.

He said he flagged down a passing van and asked the driver to take him and his wife to the medical center because he had no telephone or car.