Bernard Brandon Put to Death in 9th Execution Under Trump Presidency

Brandon Bernard
Courtesy of Attorneys for Brandon Bernard

Brandon Bernard was the ninth person to be executed by the federal government since Attorney General William Barr re-introduced the death penalty after a 17-year hiatus

Brandon Bernard was the ninth person to be executed by the federal government since Attorney General William Barr re-introduced the death penalty after a 17-year hiatus. Bernard was convicted and sentenced to death in connection to the killing of two youth ministers when he was 18 years old ––making him the youngest person to receive a death sentence in nearly 70 years, CNN reported. Yesterday, with witnesses watching behind glass, Brandon was executed by lethal injection at 9:27 p.m. at the Federal Correctional Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, according to the Bureau of Prisons. He was 40. 

Attorneys and advocates pleaded with President Donald Trump to grant Brandon clemency and, in turn, hand him a life sentence without parole. Among those advocates, Kim Kardashian West and Sister Helen Prejean

"Brandon’s execution is a stain on America’s criminal justice system," Brandon's attorney, Robert Owen, wrote in an email. "But I pray that even in his death, Brandon will advance his commitment to helping others by moving us closer to a time when this country does not pointlessly and maliciously kill young Black men who pose no threat to anyone, when we hold prosecutors to the highest standards of integrity in every case, and when our leaders exercise their moral authority where it is needed."

Brandon was one of five gang members convicted in the killing of two youth ministers from Iowa, Stacie and Todd Bagley, who were kidnapped, robbed and murdered in 1999, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

The Bagleys were killed in Killeen, Texas after five men, including Brandon, forced them at gunpoint into the trunk of their car and drove them to a remote area on the Fort Hood military base. There, they were shot in the head. Bernard set the vehicle where their bodies lay inside on fire, according to court documents obtained by the Des Moines Register.

The gunman, Christopher Vialva, was executed in September. The other defendants were handed lesser sentences, CNN reported.

Brandon's lawyers said in a statement that Brandon's trial was stained with "egregious government misconduct" allegedly involving the concealment of evidence that mislead a jury. In addition to this, there were five jurors who sentenced him to death that said they no longer stood by the verdict, Owen wrote in an email and also reported by Reuters. They went on to join the lead appellate prosecutor on Brandon's case to urge Trump to lessen his sentence to life without parole.

As Trump nears the end of his presidency, Brandon's execution comes as a unique scenario. Brandon was the first person in 130 years to be executed during a "lame duck" period for the sitting president, the Associated Press reported.

"I'm sorry... I wish I could take it all back, but I can't," Bernard said to the family of the Bagleys during his three-minute last words. "That's the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day."

The Bagley family expressed thanks to Trump and the federal government for carrying out the execution, CNN reported.

"It has been a very difficult to wait 21 years for the sentence that was imposed by the judge and jury on those who cruelly participated in the destruction of our children, to be finally completed," Georgia A. Bagley, Todd's mother, wrote, according to CNN. "This senseless act of unnecessary evil was premeditated and had many opportunities to be stopped at any time during a 9-hour period. This was torture, as they pleaded for their lives from the trunk of their own car."

There are four more federal death row inmates scheduled to be executed before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. One is scheduled for Friday to be carried out against Alfred Bourgeois, a person with an intellectual disability, according to court documents. Bourgeois only received a three-week notice of his execution, the Texas Tribune reported.