Advocates fight to stop December execution of Brandon Bernard
After a 17-year hiatus, eight death row inmates have been executed in the past six months
Brandon Bernard, 40, has been incarcerated since the age of 18 for a double murder committed in 1999. He’s been on death row for 20 years.
Scheduled to face the death penalty on Dec. 10, advocates for criminal justice reform, such as Angela Moore, a former attorney, and Kim Kardashian West, are fighting to stop the impending execution. Bernard and two other Black youths were convicted for the kidnapping and killing of white youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley in Texas, after the couple offered them kindness and aid.
Bernard was not the one who pulled the trigger nor did he have the “capacity to control his impulses, consider alternative courses of action or anticipate the consequences of his behavior” because he was a teenager at the time, whose brain was still developing, Moore wrote for the Indy Star.
Moore explains that the neurological studies back in the early 2000s did not factor how brains are not fully developed among young men until 25 or 26, making Bernard’s seven or eight years undeveloped at the time of the crime.
“For one thing, I know that in the 20 years since Brandon was sent to Death Row, science has made dramatic strides in understanding the youthful brain. In 2000, it was not widely appreciated that the brain remains physically immature well past age 18,” Moore said. “The same science shows that 18-year-olds are no different from 17-year-olds in both immaturities and potential for rehabilitation.”
She also states Bernard has been reformed.
“A terrible case has been brought to my attention and I need your help,” Kardashian West wrote in a series of tweets Sunday. “Without it, on December (10th) Brandon Bernard is going to be executed for a crime he participated in as a teenager.”
The reality TV star has been successful in bringing attention to prison reform. As theGrio previously reported, her advocacy led to the Trump administration commuting the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who served 21 years in prison for cocaine trafficking.
“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 [sic] Todd and Stacie Bagley, and their families,” Kardashian West continued. “My heart breaks for everyone involved.”
“In fact, Brandon was not a part of the initial carjacking that took place and was stunned when the robbery turned into a homicide with one of the other teens shooting both Todd and Stacie in the head,” she added.
“The gunman then turned to Brandon, gun still in hand, and told him to light the car Todd and Stacie lay in on fire to destroy the evidence,” she tweeted. “Brandon believed both were dead, though Stacie was not, and was fearful for his own life, so he made the terrible decision to comply.”
The Department of Justice sped up Bernard’s execution date once federal death-penalty executions were reinstated under the Trump administration in July. After a 17-year hiatus, eight death row inmates have been executed in the past six months, including Christopher Andre Vialva, 40, who was convicted alongside Bernard for the Bagley murders.
According to the DOJ, on the night of the killings, the Bagleys stopped their car to use a payphone in Killeen, Texas. At some point they encountered Vialva and agreed to give him and two of his companions a ride. They were ultimately robbed by the group and forced to withdraw money from an ATM.
“While locked in the trunk, the couple spoke with their abductors about God and pleaded for their lives,” the Justice Department said in a news release. “Vialva eventually parked at a remote site on the Fort Hood, Texas, military reservation, where an accomplice doused the car with lighter fluid as the couple sang and prayed. Vialva then shot Todd Bagley in the head, killing him instantly, and shot Stacie Bagley in the face, knocking her unconscious and leaving her to die of smoke inhalation after an accomplice set the car on fire.”
Because their murders took place on military-own land, Vialva, who was 19 at the time, Bernard, and a third person were slapped with federal charges.
For the first time in more than 70 years, Vialva was executed for a crime he committed as a teenager, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The mother of Todd Bagley has made clear that she supports the death penalty, PEOPLE reports.
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