Brandon Bernard was executed by the federal government Thursday at the Federal Prison Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, according to a report on a swimming pool.
Bernard, 40, was one of five gang members convicted in Texas of killing Stacie and Todd Bagley – who were youth ministers – in 1999. Sagittarius Christopher Vialva was executed in September, while the other co-defendants received less. sentences.
Bernard was pronounced dead at 21:27 m. He was the youngest person in the United States to receive a death sentence of nearly 70 years for a crime committed when he was a teenager.
Bernard said he was waiting for his chance to apologize to the Bagley family and his own family for the pain he was causing.
“Sorry. I wish I could pick it all up, but I can not,” Bernard said to Bagley’s family during his last three-minute words. “Those are the only words I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day. “
The Bagley family thanked Trump and the federal government for complying with the ruling in their statements.
“I pray that Brandon will accept Christ as his Savior, for if he does, Todd and Stacie will welcome him to heaven with love and forgiveness,” Charles Woodard wrote on behalf of the Bagley family.
“It was very difficult to wait 21 years for the verdict handed down by the judge and jury to those who cruelly participated in the destruction of our children,” wrote Georgia A. Bagley, Todd’s mother. “This senseless act of unnecessary harm was expected and had many chances to stop at any time during a 9-hour period. This was torture because they begged for their lives from the trunk of their own car. “
Georgia Bagley spoke to reporters within 30 minutes of the execution and was moved when she spoke about Bernard and Vialva’s apologies.
“The apology and repentance. Helped a lot to heal my heart,” she said, beginning to cry and recover. “I can say a lot: I forgive them. “
Bernard’s execution was planned for the fall of the government. It was the ninth execution when Attorney General William Barr announced the resumption of federal executions after a 17-year hiatus – a decision full of controversy, especially during the global pandemic, and could be halted during the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
However, it may be too late for the five federal death row inmates scheduled to die before the inauguration day on January 20th.
A high-profile case
Bernard’s case has been in the spotlight for months, drawing the headlines and the attention of politicians and celebrities who wanted the execution to be halted.Kim Kardashian West called on Trump to grant Bernard a ransom payment; Rep. Massachusetts Democrat Ayana Pressley has raised awareness about the legislation she introduced last year to end the death penalty at the federal level; Reverend Jesse L.
Jackson called on the president to commute sentences and pardon all prisoners for execution; and 23 elected and former prosecutors filed an amicus letter on Wednesday in support of Bernard’s appeal over accusations of wrongdoing by the prosecution.After a lower court judge dismissed Bernard’s motion to stay the execution on Wednesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an emergency motion and the U. S. District Circuit Court of Appeals for Columbia also dismissed the appeal on Thursday, according to court documents.
Lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr joined Bernard’s legal team on Thursday night and had filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking them to postpone the execution for two weeks so they could learn more about Bernard’s case. The lawyers’ most recent and notable client was President Donald Trump during his impeachment hearings earlier this year.The Supreme Court rejected the petition, three judges had expressed their views in public.
‘The execution of Brandon is a stain on the American criminal justice system. But I pray that even after his death, Brandon will further his dedication to help others by bringing us closer to a time when this country is not killing uselessly. ” And malicious young black men who pose no threat to anyone, ”Bernard’s attorney Robert Owens said in a statement.The court ruling left Trump as Bernard’s last hope. The president did not act.
Trump has been made aware of the case – and calls from celebrities and activists to commute Bernard’s sentence – in recent days, according to a person familiar with the case, but he has not been tempted to step in. The person said Trump was unmoved due to the violent nature of the crime.
Trump has backed Barr in his efforts to complete federal executions before his term ends next month.Owens had sought to hold a hearing on newly emerged evidence that had not been presented in Bernard’s 2000 trial. Owens argued in Bernard’s appeal that at a 2018 review hearing, another co-defendant revealed that prosecutors of the trial withheld evidence that diminished Bernard’s role in the crime.
Prosecutors argued in court documents against Bernard’s appeal on Wednesday that “the jury heard sufficient evidence showing that Bernard did not have a leading role in the gang – not even a full member. “Procedural obstacles prevent him (Bernard) from having a hearing on the merits of his claim.
(. ) By refusing a stay of execution to Brandon Bernard, the court will allow the government to submit to shirk her responsibility to conceal critical evidence that would have changed the outcome of Brandon’s conviction, ”Owens said in a press release on Wednesday.Five of the sentencing jurors came forward and said that if they had known of the classified information, they would not have agreed to sentence Bernard to death, Owens said.
Executions may pose risk of spreading Covid-19
No state has carried out an execution since July, and several state executions have been postponed for Covid-related reasons, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, the federal government is expected to have executed a total of 13 death row inmates before opening day.
The executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Information, Robert Dunham, told CNN in a previous interview that executions may be widespread events due to the number of people involved.”The decision to go ahead with all these expanding events amid a pandemic that has already killed a quarter of a million Americans is unprecedented historically,” Dunham said.A federal judge in Indiana earlier this week denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the next five executions due to the risk of the coronavirus spreading through the Terre Haute federal prison.
The lawsuit has been filed in the Alta Alta Division of the Southern District of Indiana Terre by attorneys for two inmates who are not on death row and who fear their high-risk clients may be susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.
Under the orders of Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, refusing the preliminary injunction, up to 125 people entered the facility for an execution, including nearly 40 out-of-state Bureau of Prisons employees who are part of the execution team.Since Orlando Hall was executed on Nov. 19, six members of the execution team, as well as more than a dozen other Terre Haute prison staff, have contracted the virus, according to a motion filed Wednesday on behalf of inmates who are not on death row.
Another inmate from the FCI (Federal Correctional Institution) Terre Haute (where prosecutors are housed) died of COVID-19 this week, one or more additional inmates appear to have recently died from USP Terre Haute, and the number of Positive prisoners at FCC (Federal Correctional Center) Terre Haute are now at 326 on December 8, against 264 on December 7 and 202 on December 4, “the motion said.
Justice Department attorneys argued in court documents on Wednesday that prosecutors are trying to re-contest their denied injunction request, stating that prison staff, particularly those involved in executions, could spread the virus to different sections. installation.