Human Interest

US executes Brandon Bernard, 1st in series before Trump term ends

Washington DC, Dec 10 (efe-epa).- The administration of United States president Donald Trump on Thursday executed Brandon Bernard, the second to die in connection with the 1999 murder of a couple in Texas.

The Supreme Court had denied a last-minute request to delay his killing.

Bernard, a 40-year-old Black man who was 18 at the time of the crime, was pronounced dead at 21:27 local time (02:27 GMT) following a lethal injection at Indiana’s Terre Haute federal correctional center.

His is one of five executions being pushed through before Trump’s term ends in January, and the ninth federal execution since July when the outgoing president ended a 17-year hiatus.

US media reported that in the moments before his death, Bernard apologized to the family of the couple killed.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”

Kim Kardashian West was among many who had advocated for clemency for Bernard, and had asked Trump to commute his sentence.

“While Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now,” Kardashian said in one of many tweets.

Bernard was implicated with another four in the June 1999 murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley, youth ministers from Iowa who had traveled to Texas for a church event.

According to court documents, two members of the gang took advantage of the fact that the Bagleys had stopped to use a phone booth and they asked the pair for a ride to a family members’ house.

Once inside the vehicle, another hopped in, and the young men pulled guns on the Bagleys. They then stole the couple’s belongings and locked them in the trunk as they scoured ATMs trying to withdraw money and pawn Stacie’s wedding ring.

According to documents from the Department of Justice, while they were locked in the trunk, the couple talked to their kidnappers about God and begged for their lives.

After driving to an isolated spot, Christopher Vialva opened the trunk and shot them, before Bernard set the vehicle on fire. According to the indictment, Stacie Bagley was still alive when the vehicle was set ablaze.

As the murders occurred within on the Fort Hood military base in Texas, it was the federal justice system that took on the cases of the group.

Bernard and Vialva were sentenced to death, with Vialva executed in September. Others involved in the incident were given prison sentences as they were minors at the time.

In the days leading up to Bernard’s execution, five of the nine surviving jurors who sentenced him to death, as well as the prosecutor in charge of the case, Angela Moore, advocated for commuting Bernard’s death sentence to life in prison.

“Brandon made one terrible mistake at age 18,” Bernard’s attorney Robert Owen said in a statement Thursday. “But he did not kill anyone, and he never stopped feeling shame and profound remorse for his actions in the crime that took the lives of Todd and Stacie Bagley. And he spent the rest of his life sincerely trying to show, as he put it, that he ‘was not that person.'”

Kardashian West later tweeted: “I’m so messed up right now. They killed Brandon. He was such a reformed person. So hopeful and positive until the end. More importantly he is sorry, so sorry for the hurt and pain he has caused others.”

US Attorney General William Barr has scheduled four more executions before Democrat Joe Biden, who advocates for the abolition of the death penalty, takes office on Jan. 20. The next is scheduled for Friday, with the other three for the week of Jan. 11, Trump’s last in the White House.

The deaths break a 130-year precedent of pausing executions during a presidential transition period. EFE-EPA

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