'Brandon's Execution Is a Stain'

Brandon Bernard put to death in Indiana despite outcry over his case
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2020 1:21 AM CST
Updated Dec 11, 2020 6:39 AM CST
'Brandon's Execution Is a Stain'
This August 2016 photo provided by the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington shows Brandon Bernard.   (Stacey Brownstein/Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington via AP)

For the ninth time this year, a federal execution has been carried out. Brandon Bernard was put to death in Indiana Thursday despite celebrities and politicians intervening on his behalf. After the Supreme Court denied a request to delay the execution for two weeks and President Trump did not act on Bernard's behalf, he was put to death by lethal injection. During his three-minute last words, he apologized to the families of Stacie and Todd Bagley, the youth ministers he and four other gang members abducted, robbed, and ultimately killed in 1999 as they were on their way home from a church service in Killeen, Texas. "I wish I could take it all back, but I can't," he said, per the AP. The 40-year-old also apologized to his own family for the pain he had caused. CNN reports he is the youngest person in nearly seven decades to receive a death sentence for a crime committed when he was an adolescent.

His case made headlines, with some, including Rep. Ayana Pressley and Rev. Jesse Jackson, calling for all federal executions to be halted, while others, including Kim Kardashian West and other activists and celebrities, specifically spoke up for Bernard. His defense team says newly discovered evidence, which was withheld by prosecutors and not presented at his 2000 trial, diminished his role in the crime, and 23 prosecutors supported Bernard getting an appeal on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. But court after court denied a stay of execution, emergency motion, or appeal. "Brandon's execution is a stain on America's criminal justice system," says one of his attorneys. "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." Four more federal inmates are scheduled to die before inauguration day. (More execution stories.)

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