On Thursday, December 10th, at approximately 9:27 PM, Brandon Bernard was executed by the state—becoming the ninth person put to death since the Trump administration resumed the Federal Death Penalty in July, and the second person to be executed since election day.
Mr. Bernard had spent more than half of is life on death row, after being convicted for a lethal robbery when he was 18. The crime, which occurred back in 1999, resulted in the deaths of Stacie and Todd Bagley— two youth ministers. Bernard was one of five gang members who were convicted in Texas of the killing. The gunman, Christopher Vialva, was executed back in September. However, the other accomplices (who were legal minors at the time) were given lesser sentences.
Brandon Bernard, who was 40 when he died, was considered a model inmate by anyone who knew him. His case has sparked outrage from numerous advocacy groups and even the prosecutor who was responsible for his death sentence has since come to his defense, according to BBC.
Other high profile human rights advocates have also rallied for Bernard, including senators Richard J. Durbin and Cory Booker, as well as reality television star Kim Kardashian West. West, who sent out numerous tweets urging her followers to get behind Bernard’s case in the days leading up to his execution, Tweeted unapologetically on Wednesday: #BrandonBernard should not be executed. Her tweet was accompanied by a photo of Mr. Bernard and his family.
Mr. Bernard’s death marked the ninth federal execution to occur since July, when President Trump reimplemented the practice after a 17 year hiatus. Since the federal death penalty was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1972, there has been a clear cut attempt to limit the use of the practice— at least until recently. Bernard is also the second man to be executed during Trump’s lame-duck period.
Critics have argued that resuming the federal death penalty in the midst of a pandemic is unsafe, and could potentially risk the lives of everyone involved. Following one execution in November, eight members of a 40 person execution team later tested positive for COVID-19, according to NBC.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has scheduled five more executions before Biden’s inauguration on January 20th. If all five of these executions take place, Trump will have executed more inmates than any other president in over a century, according to BBC.