(CNN) — Brandon Bernard was executed this Thursday by the federal government of the United States, in the Federal Correctional Center, in Terre Haute, Indiana, according to a report to the media.
Bernard, 40, was one of five gang members convicted in Texas of killing Stacie and Todd Bagley, who were young ministers, in 1999. The attacker, Christopher Vialva, was executed in September, while the other co-defendants were they imposed lesser sentences.
Bernard was pronounced dead at 9:27 pm He is the youngest person in the United States to receive a death sentence in nearly 70 years for a crime committed as a teenager.
Bernard said he had been waiting for his chance to apologize to the Bagley family and his own family for the pain he caused them.
“I’m sorry … I wish I could erase everything, but I can’t,” Bernard told the Bagley family in his last words for which he had three minutes. “Those are the only words I can say that fully capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”
Family members of Brandon Bernanrd’s victims speak
In statements, the Bagley family thanked Trump and the federal government for serving the sentence.
“I pray that Brandon has accepted Christ as his savior, because if he has, Todd and Stacie will welcome him to heaven with love and forgiveness,” wrote Charles Woodard on behalf of the Bagley family.
“It has been very difficult waiting 21 years for the sentence imposed by the judge and jury on those who cruelly participated in the destruction of our children to finally be completed,” wrote Georgia A. Bagley, Todd’s mother. “This senseless act of unnecessary malice was premeditated and had many opportunities to be arrested at any time during a 9-hour period. It was torture as they begged for their lives from the trunk of their own car.
Georgia Bagley spoke to reporters within 30 minutes of the execution and was emotional when she spoke about Bernard and Vialva’s apologies.
“The apology and the remorse … did a lot to heal my heart,” Bagley said. She couldn’t hold back crying and then pulled herself together. “I can say a lot: I forgive you.”
The government has scheduled Bernard’s execution for this fall. It was the ninth execution since US Attorney General William Barr announced the restart of federal executions after a 17-year hiatus, a decision that has been fraught with controversy, especially during the global pandemic, and that could be stopped under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
However, it may be too late for the five sentenced to death by federal justice, whose execution is scheduled for before the day of inauguration, January 20.
Brandon Bernard, a high-profile case
Bernard’s case has been in the limelight for months, grabbing headlines and the attention of both politicians and celebrities who wanted the execution stopped.
Kim Kardashian West asked Trump to grant Bernard a commutation. Rep. Ayana Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, unveiled legislation she introduced last year to end the death penalty at the federal level. The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson called on the President to commute the sentences and pardon all prisoners whose execution is scheduled. 23 former and elected prosecutors filed Wednesday a brief of friend Senate in support of Bernard’s appeal due to prosecutorial misconduct allegations.
After a lower court judge rejected Bernard’s motion to stay the execution on Wednesday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency motion and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also denied. the appeal Thursday, according to court documents.
Attorneys Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr joined Bernard’s legal team late Thursday and had filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking to delay the execution for two weeks so that they could catch up on Bernard’s case. The lawyers’ most recent and notable client was President Donald Trump during his impeachment hearings earlier this year.
The Supreme Court denied the petition, and three judges issued public dissent.
“Brandon’s execution is a stain on America’s criminal justice system. But I pray that even in his death, Brandon will advance his commitment to help others by moving closer to a time when this country will not uselessly and maliciously kill young black men who pose no threat to anyone, “said Bernard’s attorney. , Robert Owens, in a statement.
The execution of Bernard
The court’s decision left Trump as Bernard’s last hope. The president did not act.
Trump was briefed on the case, and on calls from celebrities and activists to commute Bernard’s sentence, in recent days, according to a person familiar with the matter, but he was not swayed to intervene. The person said Trump was unfazed due to the violent nature of the crime. Trump has backed Barr in his push to complete federal executions before his term ends next month.
Owens had sought to have a hearing on newly discovered evidence that was not presented at Bernard’s trial in 2000. Owens argued in Bernard’s appeal that, during a 2018 re-sentencing hearing for another co-defendant, it was revealed that the Prosecutors from the trial had withheld evidence that downplayed Bernard’s role in the crime.
Prosecutors argued Wednesday in court documents opposing Bernard’s motion of appeal that “the jury heard ample evidence indicating that Bernard did not have a leadership role in the gang and was not even a full member.”
“Procedural barriers have prevented him [Bernard] Get a hearing on the merits of your claim. … By denying the stay of execution of Brandon Bernard, the court will allow the Government to avoid responsibility for concealing critical evidence that would have changed the outcome of Brandon’s sentence, “Owens said in a press release issued Wednesday.
Five of the sentencing jurors came forward saying that had they been aware of the undisclosed information, they would not have agreed to sentence Bernard to death, Owens said.
Execution may pose a risk of spreading covid-19
No state has carried out an execution since July, and several state executions have been postponed for COVID-related reasons, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, the federal government is expected to have executed a total of 13 sentenced to death before the day of inauguration.
The executive director of the Center for Information on the Death Penalty, Robert Dunham, told CNN in a previous interview that executions are possible wide-spread events due to the number of people involved.
“The decision to go ahead with all these wide-spread events in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed a quarter of a million Americans is historically unprecedented,” Dunham said.
A federal judge in Indiana rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction earlier this week to halt the upcoming five executions due to the risk of the novel coronavirus spreading throughout Terre Haute federal prison. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of the District Highland Division by attorneys for two inmates who are not on death row and who are concerned that their high-risk clients are susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.
Under Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson’s order, denying the preliminary injunction, up to 125 people enter the facility for an execution, including nearly 40 out-of-state Bureau of Prisons employees who are part of the execution team.
Since Orlando Hall was executed on Nov. 19, six members of the execution team, as well as more than a dozen other Terre Haute prison staff, have contracted the virus, according to a motion filed Wednesday on behalf. of prisoners not sentenced to death.
«Another FCI inmate [Institución Correccional Federal] High ground [donde se encuentran los demandantes] died from covid-19 this week, one or more additional inmates appear to have recently died at the Terre Haute Division, and the number of positive inmate cases at the FCC [Centro Correccional Federal]) de Terre Haute now stands at 326, as of December 8; versus 264, on December 7, and 202, on December 4, “according to the motion.
Lawyers for the Justice Department argued in court papers Wednesday that the plaintiffs are attempting to re-argue their denied motion for preliminary injunction, which claims that prison staff, specifically those involved in executions, can spread the virus to different sections of the facility.
Interactions between the execution team and the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Center staff are “extremely limited, and the members of the execution team generally do not even enter the FCI or interact with the inmates there. Plaintiffs do not interact with inmates on death row or anyone in the execution facility, ”according to the Department of Justice’s opposition to continuing the lawsuit process.
The five inmates who are scheduled to be executed are all housed in the Indiana federal prison. Alfred Bourgeois is the next inmate scheduled to be executed, this Friday. Bourgeois was sentenced to death for the torture and murder of his 2-year-old daughter.
– CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
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