Advocates from all walks of life are calling on Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence, citing trial issues, his age.
Lawyers on Wednesday denounced the planned execution of Brandon Bernard and called on President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison.
Celebrity and criminal justice reform advocate Kim Kardashian West took to Twitter to seek clemency for Bernard. “Having gotten to know Brandon, I’m sorry about this execution,” she wrote.
The appeal comes a day after a federal court dismissed a motion to stop its execution, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Bernard, 40, was 18 when he participated in the murders of Todd and Stacie Bagley, two youth pastors killed in 1999. If he receives a fatal injection as scheduled Thursday at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, it would be a rare execution of a person who was a teenager at the time of the crime.
He did not shoot the Bagleys and another man was convicted of pulling the trigger, according to an opinion piece by the Washington Post Editorial Board, which called his execution “disturbing.”
The editorial, published Nov. 26, said five of the nine jurors who convicted Bernard no longer want him executed and that one of the prosecutors who “helped put him on death row is pleading now against his execution, citing scientific advances establishing that the brains of 18-year-olds are not fully developed ”.
West has worked with the Trump administration on prison reform since 2018, when it pressured the president to commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who served 21 years for a non-violent drug offense.
She also helped push through the bipartisan First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill that aimed to reduce sentences for non-violent offenses and improve conditions in U.S. prisons.
West said she would spend the next 24 hours tweeting about Bernard’s case “and why his life should be spared” by Trump.
Most of the time, executions take place, on our behalf, without much attention being paid to them. This is unacceptable. Over the next 24 hours, I’ll be tweeting about Brandon and his case and why his life should be spared @realDonaldTrump.
– Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 9, 2020
Brett L. Tolman, a former Conservative American lawyer, agreed with West. He pointed to similar issues with Bernard’s trial in the Washington Post op-ed, and named others.
These include Bernard’s love for his daughter and his tenure as a “model” prisoner during his more than 20 years behind bars.
-Brandon has been and can continue to be a wonderful father to his daughter.
-Brandon is not afraid to die and is at peace but wants to live for his daughter and her family.
-Brandon is a positive resource for other inmates in prison, including the warden and those who work there.
– Brett L. Tolman (@tolmanbrett) December 9, 2020
Three other federal executions are planned after those of Bernard, just days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next month.
Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press news agency he would likely plan more before he leaves the Justice Department.
Bernard’s execution is believed to be the ninth by the federal government since the Trump administration resumed capital punishment in July, ending a 17-year hiatus caused by questions about methods of execution and a broader opposition to the practice.
This goes against a 131-year tradition of outgoing “lame duck” administrations refraining from carrying out executions, allowing the new government to take responsibility.
Trump lost the Nov. 3 election and although he refuses to concede defeat, President-elect Joe Biden, who opposes capital punishment, is expected to take office on Jan.20.
The Justice Department’s decision also contrasts with an effective halt in executions by individual states due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit prisons hard.
The Justice Department revealed that eight staff who participated in an execution last month tested positive for the coronavirus and that five of those staff will take part in executions scheduled for this week.