The federal government executed Brandon Bernard Thursday night after the Supreme Court dismissed a last-minute appeal despite appeals from celebrities like Kim Kardashian.
Forty-year-old Bernard received a lethal injection of phenobarbital in Federal Prison in Terre Haute, Indiana in a rare execution of a person who was in their teens at the time of the crime.
He was pronounced dead at 9:27 p.m. when witnesses, including members of his victims' families, watched from behind a glass barrier.
In his final words, Bernard spoke to Todd and Stacie Bagley's families through the window and said to them, "I'm sorry."
"Those are the only words I can say that fully capture how I feel now and how I felt that day," he added.
Bernard was 18 years old when he and four other teenagers kidnapped and robbed Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way to a Sunday service in Killeen, Texas in 1999. The couple were shot and their car was set on fire.
Forty-year-old Bernard received a fatal injection as scheduled Thursday at Terre Haute, Indiana Federal Prison in a rare execution of a person who was teenagers at the time of the crime
Throughout Thursday, there was a growing wave of celebrities like Kim Kardashian pushing for the execution to be stopped, as pictured above
The appeal was denied on Thursday so the execution could take place immediately
The execution was postponed from 6 p.m. after Bernard's legal team filed a final appeal. However, she was dismissed by the Supreme Court and allowed to continue.
Bernard's lawyers called his execution "a stain on the American criminal justice system" because they claimed he "never ceased to be ashamed and deeply remorseful for his crime."
When the Supreme Court decision was announced, they issued a statement that "those who love Brandon" are filled with "sincere anger and grief at the actions of the federal government to commit suicide."
"Brandon made a terrible mistake when he was 18 years old. But he didn't kill anyone, and he never stopped feeling ashamed and deep of remorse for his actions in the crime," added attorney Robert C. Owen.
& # 39; Brandon's execution marks America’s criminal justice system. But I pray that even after his death, Brandon will continue his commitment to helping others by bringing us closer to a time when this country does not senselessly and maliciously kill young black men who pose no threat to anyone. & # 39;
The Bagley's families and friends, however, applauded the "closure necessary to get on with life" after his death.
"It was very difficult to wait 21 years for the final enforcement of the verdict the judge and jury passed against those who were cruelly involved in the destruction of our children," said Georgia Bagley on behalf of Todd & # 39; s Family.
& # 39; This pointless act of unnecessary evil was deliberate and had many options to be stopped at any time during a 9 hour period. This was torture when they asked for their lives in the trunk of their own car.
"Please remember that the lives of family and friends have been shattered and we have all been grieving for 21 years and waiting for justice to be served," she added.
Bernard, pictured in 2016, has shown remorse for his crime at the age of 18
"On June 21, 1999, our lives were changed forever because this is the day Todd and Stacie were executed!" wrote Charles Woodard on behalf of Stacy's family.
"I pray that Brandon accepted Christ as his Savior because when he does, Todd and Stacie will welcome him to heaven with love and forgiveness."
President Trump could have pardoned Bernard to stop the execution following the Supreme Court decision.
He was the ninth federal inmate to have been killed since July when Trump ended a 17-year hiatus in federal executions.
Throughout Thursday, there was a growing wave of celebrities like Kim Kardashian pressing for the execution to be stopped.
And just over an hour before the scheduled execution, Bernard's lawyers filed papers with the Supreme Court to stop the execution.
The legal team has also been expanded to include two high profile lawyers, Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr.
Dershowitz is the retired Harvard law professor who was part of Donald Trump's impeachment team and whose client O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bülow and Mike Tyson, while Starr defended Trump during impeachment and is best known as the independent attorney who led the investigation into Bill Clinton.
Kardashian counted down to Bernard's execution on Thursday and said in a series of recently released tweets that his "role was small compared to that of the other teenagers involved".
She said that she spoke to him as his execution time was approaching and called it "the toughest phone call I have ever had", but that she was still hopeful that the outcome might be changed.
“I just spoke to Brandon, which will probably be the last time. Heaviest phone call I've ever had. Brandon, selfless as always, focused on his family and made sure they were okay. He told me not to cry because our fight is not over yet, ”she wrote.
Kardashian said she spoke to him as his execution time was approaching and called it the "toughest phone call I've ever had," but that she still remained hopeful that the outcome might be changed
She had led the wave of celebrities calling for the execution to be stopped
"When he told me he was claustrophobic and they offered to try sedatives to calm him down before putting him in the chair and he just didn't want to panic, I literally lost it. I had to put my cell phone on mute switch so he wouldn't hear me cry like that, "added the reality TV star.
"We didn't say goodbye because we wanted to hope that we would talk again, we said we would talk to you soon!"
She has not commented since his death.
Defense attorneys have argued in court and in a pardon from Trump that Bernard was a low-ranking, submissive member of the group that killed the Bagleys, an Iowa religious couple.
They say both Bagleys were likely dead before Bernard doused their car with lighter fluid and set it on fire, a claim that contradicts government statements. Bernard, they say, has repeatedly expressed repentance.
"I can't imagine how you would feel when you lose your family," Bernard said in a 2016 death row video statement of the survival of Bagley relatives. "I wish we could all go back and change it."
He also described participation in youth programs and acceptance of religion, saying, "I've tried to be a better person since that day."
Bernard and his accomplice Christopher Vialva were sentenced to death in 2000 after a jury found them guilty of the carjacking and murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley (above), Iowa Christian youth ministers at the Fort Hood military base in Texas last year got married
The case has called on Trump to intervene, including from a prosecutor in his 2000 trial who now says racial prejudice may have influenced the death sentence on black Bernard from the almost exclusively white jury.
Meanwhile, several jurors have also publicly stated that they regret not having chosen a life in prison instead.
The Justice Department refused to delay the execution of Bernard, another inmate on Friday and three more in January, even after eight officers who attended an execution last month tested positive for the coronavirus.
The eight federal executions in 2020 are more than in the last 56 years combined.
The Trump administration is planning four more federal executions before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
Federal executions during a presidential transfer of power are also rare, especially during a transition from an advocate of the death penalty to an elected president like Biden against the death penalty.
The last time executions took place during a lame duck era was during the Grover Cleveland presidency in the 1890s.
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