Kim Kardashian urged Trump to commute the sentence of prisoner Brandon Bernard, who instead was executed on December 10. Here’s what you need to know about him.
UPDATE (12/11/20 01:25pm ET): Kim Kardashian reacted to Brandon Bernard‘s execution, which she called “so messed up,” in this series of emotional tweets.
UPDATE (12/10/20 9:45pm ET): Despite so many pleas to spare his life, Brandon’s execution has been carried out. The Supreme Court denied a last minute stay of execution and Brandon was put to death by lethal injection in a Terre Haute, IN federal prison on the evening of Dec. 10. It became the ninth federal execution of 2020, ever since the Trump administration reinstated federal executions in July after a 17-year moratorium. Brandon’s execution also became the first to happen during a presidential lame-duck period in 130 years. Trump still has four more federal executions scheduled to take place before President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.
Kim Kardashian is using her expansive platform for good once more, and calling on President Donald Trump to commute the death sentence of prisoner Brandon Bernard. Brandon, now 40, was given the death penalty in 2000 for a crime he committed as a teenager, and is set to be executed by lethal injection on December 10 after 20 years in prison. “Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old father is going to be executed tomorrow by our federal government. Having gotten to know Brandon, I am heartbroken about this execution,” Kim tweeted on December 9. “I’m calling on @realDonaldTrump
to grant Brandon a commutation and allow him to live out his sentence in prison.” Here’s what you should know about Brandon:
1. He was convicted in the grisly murders of Todd and Stacie Bagley in 2000. Brandon, then 18, took part in what was supposed to be the robbery of youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley in 1999. Brandon and another teenager, Terry Brown (then 17) split from the group as three accomplices decided to carjack the Bagleys and lock them in their trunk in Texas. The group’s ringmaster, Christopher Vialva, insisted that the couple needed to be killed, and shot them. Brandon and Terry were told to get rid of the evidence and doused the car with lighter fluid.
Brandon said during his trial that he believed that they were both dead, but prosecutors said that Stacie was unconscious as the car burned. Despite being slightly older than his teenage accomplices, 18-year-old Brandon was given to the death penalty. Terry and Christopher Lewis, both 15, have already been released from prison. Tony Sparks, 16 at the time of the crime, will be released in 2030. Christopher Vialva was executed in September, two months after the Trump administration reinstated federal executions after a 17-year moratorium. Brandon will be the ninth execution of 2020.
2. But new evidence suggests that Brandon may not have killed Stacie. Prosecutors told the jury that Stacie died from smoke inhalation from the fire that Brandon lit. And for that reason, they asked that Brandon be given the death penalty. But an independent medical examiner hired by the defense team determined after the trial that Stacie was “medically dead” after being shot, before the fire started, according to CBS News.
3. Five of the surviving nine jurors on his case now say they regret their verdict. Former jury foreperson Calvin Kruger is now advocating for a life sentence because he believes Brandon was “not the ringleader behind these offenses, but a follower.” Another juror, Gary McClung, said that “the death penalty is far too harsh for his level of involvement in this crime. I’ve always struggled, I guess, especially that time in my life, with standing on my convictions. And I regret that now.”
4. The prosecutor who fought his appeal to overturn the sentence is now advocating for his life to be saved. Attorney Angela Moore told CBS News that she’s changed her stance because of “the legal reasons, aside from my own personal beliefs, it’s the evidence and what we have found out since. Mr. Bernard did not shoot and kill the victims in this case. He was not the person who planned this robbery gone wrong. He should not be executed, ever. It’s barbaric. It’s horrific and he does not deserve it.”
Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old father is going to be executed tomorrow by our federal government. Having gotten to know Brandon, I am heartbroken about this execution. I’m calling on @realDonaldTrump to grant Brandon a commutation and allow him to live out his sentence in prison. https://t.co/soccUQFmac
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 9, 2020
5. Kim Kardashian began advocating for his release in November 2020. Kim has been instrumental in raising clemency issues with President Trump, famously convincing him to release Alice Marie Johnson in 2019. “A terrible case has been brought to my attention and I need your help. Without it, on December 12th Brandon Bernard is going to be executed for a crime he participated in as a teenager,” she began a lengthy, multi-tweet message on November 29.
“First, I want to say that a terrible crime was committed and me fighting for a stay of execution does not take away from the sympathy I have for the victim’s Todd and Stacie Bagley, and their families. My heart breaks for everyone involved,” she continued. “While Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now.”