U.S. Federal Government Executes Brandon Bernard


By Eunho Jung, Assistant Junior Editor

At 9:27 PM on Thursday, December 10th, Brandon Bernard was executed by lethal injection by the federal government. He is one of seventeen people who have been executed in 2020. 

Bernard was executed for his role in the murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley in 1999. He and his four other co-conspirators robbed and abducted the couple on a Texas military reservation. The group drove around Killeen, Texas attempting to use the couple’s ATM cards and pawn off their jewelry. Eventually, Christopher Vialva, Bernard’s accomplice, shot both victims in the head, which killed Todd instantly. Bernard then proceeded to set the vehicle on fire with the bodies stashed in the trunk. 

Vialva, Bernard’s accomplice, was executed on September 24th for his role in the murder. The executions of Vialva and Bernard are a part of an effort by the Trump administration to push forth the death penalty; The White House plans to carry out four more federal executions before Trump leaves office this coming January. 

In 2000, Bernard was convicted for this crime at 18. His trial consisted of 11 out of 12 white jurors who ultimately sentenced Bernard to the death penalty. During the trial, the prosecutor, Angela Moore, affirmed that Stacie did not die from the gunshot wound, rather from the fumes from the fire, suggesting that Bernard was responsible for her death. This claim has been challenged several times: an independent investigator hired by the defense team of Bernard said Stacie was medically dead before the fire. However, the Justice Department still maintains the fire was the cause of Stacie’s death. Furthermore, five out of the nine surviving jurors have said they would change the sentence from capital punishment to life in prison. Even Angela Moore, who once defended his death penalty, called for the reversal of his sentence. “Executing Brandon would be a terrible stain on the nation’s honor,” she argued in her op-ed. 

Bernard’s case has caused a massive uproar from the public, especially from high-profile celebrities. Kim Kardashian, the reality star and social justice advocate, strongly pleaded for a reversal in Bernard’s case. She worked alongside Bernard’s legal team and personally asked Donald Trump for a pardon. Her most notable tweet on Twitter read, “1 hour until Brandon Bernard will be executed. Its #HumanRightsDay and here in the United States we are executing someone who was 18 at the time of the crime, was not the shooter and has rehabilitated himself. So shameful.” 

During his time in prison, Bernard found solace in classical music and crocheting. People sitting on death row are confined in their cells for 23 hours a day in the federal prison at Terre Haute, Indiana. Brandon Bernard sat alone in his cell for 23 hours a day for 17 years. This kind of confinement can either make or break a human being. However, Bernard chose the former. He was a positive human being and remained hopeful up until the moment he was strapped to the gurney. “I’m sorry,” a media witness quoted Bernard saying, “That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.” 

Nick Biondo, junior at Wayne Hills, shared his opinion on this matter. “I feel that it is a touchy subject. The death penalty is an especially controversial topic, especially in situations like this where someone is executed long after the crime they committed. Brandon Bernard did in fact take part in an absolutely heinous crime, and he seemed to have accepted that,” he argues,  “I believe that he should not have been executed, but been given a long sentence where he could rethink his actions. He should have been given a chance to change his ways. Obviously it is too late now, but we can all learn from these events as a nation and as human beings.” 

Kaylyn Alejo, another junior at Wayne Hills, argued a similar stance as Biondo. “The justice system failed Brandon Bernard. I don’t think the government should have the power to execute anyone ESPECIALLY a person who didn’t even commit the act of murder,” she says, “We as humans are not to decide when another human’s life should end. Brandon Bernard should have been given the chance to finish his life sentence in prison… My heart broke when the clock hit 9:27 pm on December 10. Brandon Bernard was killed by the very system that was supposed to protect him.” 

The family of Todd Bagley thanked Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and others at the Department of Justice for delivering the family peace and closure. According to the reporter, the mother of Bagley said, “I can very much say: I forgive them.”