Kim Kardashian calls on Trump to commute Brandon Bernard's execution
Kim Kardashian has asked President Trump to halt the scheduled execution of Brandon Bernard, continuing her advocacy work.
“Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old father, is going to be executed tomorrow by our federal government,” Kardashian, 40, tweeted on Wednesday. “Having gotten to know Brandon, I am heartbroken about this execution. I’m calling on @realDonaldTrump to grant Brandon a commutation and allow him to live out his sentence in prison.”
Bernard is housed at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, awaiting execution; should his sentence not be commuted, he would become the ninth federal prisoner to be executed following the Trump administration’s decision to end a 17-year hiatus on federal executions earlier in 2020.
Bernard was convicted as part of a robbery that led to the deaths of Todd and Stacie Bagley on the Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas in 1999, when he was 18 years old.
Tuesday, Judge James Sweeney of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana denied a request by Bernard’s team to stay his execution. His lawyers argued that the prosecution in his case had withheld an expert witness who could prove that Bernard’s status in his local gang was too low to have made him a key architect of the robbery. Judge Sweeney wrote that the testimony wasn’t strong enough to overturn Bernard’s death sentence conviction.
Kardashian has previously posted about Bernard’s case, writing on November 29 that “While Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens 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.”
“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,” Kardashian continued. “Brandon believed both were dead, though Stacie was not, and was fearful for his own life, so he made the terrible decision to comply.”
Court documents state that Bernard was one of five members of the 212 Piru Bloods gang that carried out the crime. Another accomplice in the crime, Christopher Vialva, who shot both of the victims in the head, was executed by lethal injection earlier this year.
Five of the nine jurors involved in Bernard’s death sentence verdict have since said they regret the original verdict, with four asking for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison. Federal prosecutor Angela Moore, who defended Bernard’s death sentence verdict on appeal, published an op-ed on Nov. 20 lobbying for Bernard’s sentence to be commuted.
In Kardashian’s Nov. 29 tweets, she attached a link to a pre-written letter that people could sign and send to President Trump. This week, Bernard’s lawyer, Rob Owen, told the Indianapolis Star that 80,000 people had done so.
Bernard is not the only death row convict who’s attracted Kardashian’s advocacy as of late. In November, she visited with an inmate named Julius Jones in Oklahoma City, promising to assist him with his case. (Kardashian had previously urged clemency for Jones in October 2019.)
Kardashian has stepped up the tenor of her efforts since successfully lobbying Trump to to grant clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother who was serving a life sentence without parole for drug offenses, in 2018. And she’s persisted in working with Trump despite the advice of others, telling David Letterman in October that “Everyone called me and said, ‘Don’t you dare step foot in that White House or your reputation is done.’”
“And I said, ‘I have to step foot in there or these people’s lives don’t have a chance,’” Kardashian added.