- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Texas man convicted of killing married youth ministers before setting their car on fire while they were inside was executed Thursday night, despite last-minute appeals from Democratic officials and Kim Kardashian West.

Brandon Bernard, 40, was pronounced dead at 9:27 p.m. after getting a lethal injection at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. He is the ninth federal inmate executed this year.

The execution came after the Supreme Court denied last-minute legal challenges from Bernard’s attorneys, who had argued that newly-discovered evidence suggested he did not play an active role in the murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley in Killeen, Texas.

Although the Supreme Court refused to postpone the execution, Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying had the new evidence been presented to a jury, Bernard would have most likely been spared the death penalty.

The evidence defense attorneys say was withheld by prosecutors was the testimony of an expert who was prepared to testify that Bernard was a low-level member of a gang that killed the Bagleys and he did not plan the carjacking and robbery that led to their deaths.

“Many things went wrong to put Brandon on death row, including egregious government misconduct in concealing evidence and misleading the jury, which the courts refused to remedy,” Bernard’s attorney Robert C. Owen said in a statement after his death.

“Brandon’s execution is a stain on America’s criminal justice system,” he continued.

In a statement, the family of Stacie Bagley said their lives were changed forever with her death.

“I pray that Brandon has accepted Christ as his Savior, because if he has, Todd and Stacie will welcome him into Heaven with love and forgiveness. God will forgive us of our sins, but the consequences of our sin will always play out,” her father, Charles Woodward, said.

Todd Bagley’s mother, Georgia, asked Bernard’s supporters to remember her family’s pain and suffering.

“When someone deliberately takes the lives of others, they suffer the consequences of their actions,” she said. “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.”

Earlier Thursday, a federal appeals court also denied a last-minute emergency request to halt the execution, the ninth inmate death sentence carried out this year by the Trump administration.

In a brief, one-page order, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the request without explanation.

Bernard’s case attracted attention from Democratic lawmakers and celebrity activists, who pleaded with President Trump to commute his sentence to life in prison.

Since the Trump administration resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus, Democrats have largely been mum about the eight federal inmates put to death so far. But they say Bernard’s case is different because of the newly uncovered evidence.

In a joint statement, Democratic Sens. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois called on the president to commute Bernard’s sentence.

“Since he was sentenced to death, new evidence has come to light and a number of deficiencies in his initial defense have been exposed,” they said. “Mr. Bernard’s post-conviction attorneys have continued to seek legal relief in the courts and Mr. Bernard should be allowed to keep pursuing available legal avenues to challenge his death sentence.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts Democrat, flanked by Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun and noted death-penalty activist, urged supporters to petition the White House to stop Bernard’s execution.

“We need to fight for Brandon like he is our own son,” Ms. Pressley said in a media appearance with The Appeal. “We need to fight for him like he is a member of our family because he is. We are all one human family.”

“Murdering Brandon will only further the cycles of trauma and harm,” she continued.

Lawmakers aren’t the only ones advocating for Bernard. Kim Kardashian West also issued a public plea aimed at Mr. Trump to commute the sentence.

On Thursday night, she detailed her final moments on the phone with Bernard before he was killed.

“Just spoke to Brandon for what will likely be the last time. Hardest call I’ve ever had,” she tweeted. “Brandon, selfless as always, was focused on his family and making sure they are OK. He told me not to cry because our fight isn’t over.”

Although Bernard was not involved in the carjacking, he participated in burning the vehicle while the Bagleys were inside it.

Mr. Bagley’s death came as a result of gunshot wounds, but Mrs. Bagley died of smoke inhalation while unconscious from the gunshot wound, according to autopsies.

Bernard and his three accomplices were convicted, but two have been released. A third, Christopher Vialva, was executed earlier this year.

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