Brandon Bernard on Thursday became the youngest person, based on the age when the crime occurred, in almost seven decades to be executed by the U.S. government. The 40-year-old inmate, who was just 18 years old when he took part in the killing of couple Todd and Stacie Bagley, in 1999, was killed by lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, despite campaigns to save him.
Bernard was pronounced dead at 9:27 p.m after the Supreme Court denied a request for an emergency stay Thursday night. His last words to the family of the deceased couple were: “I’m sorry. That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”
Bernard was convicted with four others over the killing of the couple in Killen, Texas, in 1999. He and the others were all teenagers at the time. According to court documents, Bernard and the group of teenagers kidnapped the White couple, who were also youth pastors, before robbing them and shooting them in their heads. They subsequently placed their bodies in the trunk of their car and torched it.
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In the year 2000, a federal jury found Bernard guilty of two counts of murder and placed him on death row. In recent weeks, advocates raised issues about the punishment given to Bernard, saying that he was barely a legal adult at the time of the crime.
“Brandon made one terrible mistake at age 18,” said lawyer Robert C. Owen. “But he did not kill anyone, and he never stopped feeling shame and profound remorse for his actions in the crime that took the lives of Todd and Stacie Bagley. And he spent the rest of his life sincerely trying to show, as he put it, that he ‘was not that person,'” Owen said after the execution of Bernard Thursday night.
Bernard’s attorneys the day before asked a federal appeals court to temporarily halt his execution, with claims that the prosecution at his trial “unconstitutionally withheld evidence” that would have made jurors give him a life sentence.
Bernard, whose execution came 21 years after the crime, is the ninth person put to death by the federal government this year after the Justice Department resumed executions in July following a 17-year break on the federal level.
Kim Kardashian West, who has become a force in criminal justice, asked her 67 million followers on social media to appeal to President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence. She tweeted Thursday: “Just spoke to Brandon for what will likely be the last time. Hardest call I’ve ever had.”
Moments after his death, the reality television personality wrote on Instagram: “I’m so messed up right now. They killed Brandon. He was such a reformed person. So hopeful and positive until the end.
“More importantly, he is sorry, so sorry for the hurt and pain he has caused others.”
Some members of the Judiciary Committee, including Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, had also asked Trump to intervene in Bernard’s execution, arguing that the death penalty is “fatally flawed in its imposition and is disproportionately imposed based on race,” NBC News reported.
Attorneys have also argued that Bernard, at the time of the crime, was only a follower and did not know that the couple were going to be killed. This September, Christopher Vialva, who was accused of being the ringleader and was tried with Bernard, was executed. Three others involved received prison sentences as they were not adults when the crime was committed and were ineligible for the death penalty.
The victims’ family, who support Bernard and Vialva’s executions, have thanked Trump and the Justice Department. They have, however, accepted the apologies of Bernard and Vialva. “I can very much say: I forgive them,” said Georgia Bagley, Todd’s mother, according to the Associated Press.