- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Lawyers for a Texas man scheduled to be executed next month asked a federal judge Wednesday to postpone the execution, claiming that prosecutors suppressed critical evidence during his trial 20 years ago.

Brandon Bernard, 40, is set to die by lethal injection on Dec. 10 at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Bernard was sentenced to death in 2000 for the 1999 murders of married youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley in Killeen, Texas.

Defense attorneys for Bernard say he was not with his accomplices when they kidnapped the Bagleys, and he became involved later only because he was a low-level member of the gang that carried out the kidnapping and slayings.

Bernard’s lawyers say he was called in to dispose of the Bagleys’ vehicle and set them free.

“The suppressed evidence would have reinforced the other evidence at trial … that Bernard was absent when most of the events of the crime unfolded and that at least two equally culpable participants were to receive more lenient sentences,” Bernard’s lawyers said in a statement.

A fourth accomplice, Christopher Vialva, was executed in September for his role in the crime.

Bernard’s lawyers say the evidence that Bernard played a minor role in the Bagleys’ deaths is found in the testimony of a gang expert.

The expert, a former police officer, concluded that Bernard was “on the very periphery” of the youth gang that carried out the carjacking and murders.

“Expert evidence that Bernard occupied the gang’s lowest rung would almost certainly have persuaded at least one juror to vote for life,” Bernard’s attorneys said

Bernard’s lawyers say the testimony was discovered while they were reviewing court documents for the resentencing of one of Bernard’s co-defendants, proving the government possessed the information.

Prosecutors say the Bagleys gave Vialva and two other gang members a ride in their car, but the men robbed the couple at gunpoint, stealing their money and a wedding ring. The Bagleys were then put in the trunk of the car.

Bernard’s lawyers maintain he wasn’t with them at the time of the kidnapping and met the other accomplices in his own car.

The four men drove the Bagleys and the two vehicles to the Fort Hood Army base, where Vialva shot both victims in the head, killing Todd Bagley instantly.

The men then set the car on fire. Stacie Bagley died of smoke inhalation while unconscious from the gunshot wound.

Earlier this month, dozens of supporters, including jurors from Bernard’s trial, asked President Trump to commute his death sentence.

The petition says that Bernard was 18 at the time, has a clean prison record and is remorseful for his actions.

Bernard is one of five federal inmates scheduled to die over the next two months.

Since the Justice Department resumed federal executions earlier this year after a 17-year hiatus, eight people have been killed.

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