Brandon Bernard put to death - one of five executions planned for Donald Trump's final days in office

The Trump administration on Thursday carried out its ninth federal execution of the year and the first during a presidential lame-duck period in 130 years. Brandon Bernard, a Texas street-gang member, was put to death for his role in the slayings of a religious couple from Iowa more than two decades ago. Four more federal executions, including one on Friday, are planned in the weeks before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. The case of Brandon Bernard, who received a lethal injection of phenobarbital inside a death chamber at a US prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, was a rare execution of a person who was in his teens when his crime was committed. Several high-profile figures, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, had appealed to President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison. "I’m so messed up right now," Kardashian West said. "They killed Brandon.  He was such a reformed person. So hopeful and positive until the end. More importantly he is sorry, so sorry for the hurt and pain he has caused others." Brandon wanted me to tell every single person who worked on his behalf supporting him in any way a huge thank you. He was certain he was gonna have the chance to tell you all himself and write you all letters but he told me to tell you all how grateful he is for you! — Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 11, 2020 With witnesses looking on from behind a glass barrier, the 40-year-old Bernard was pronounced dead at 9:27 p.m. Eastern time. Bernard directed his last words to the family of the couple he killed, speaking with striking calm for someone who knew he was about to die. "I’m sorry," he said, lifting his head and looking at the witness-room windows. "That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day." As he spoke before he died, Bernard showed no outward signs of fear, distress or apprehension, speaking lucidly and naturally as witnesses looked on behind a glass barrier. Speaking for more than three minutes, Bernard said he had been waiting for this chance to say he was sorry - not only to the victims’ family, but also for the pain he caused his own family. Earlier, he said about his role in the killing, "I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t." Bernard was 18 when he and four other teenagers abducted and robbed Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way from a Sunday service in Killeen, Texas. Federal executions were resumed by Trump in July after a 17-year hiatus despite coronavirus outbreak in U.S. prisons. Todd Bagley’s mother, Georgia, spoke to reporters within 30 minutes of the execution, saying she wanted to thank Trump, Attorney General William Barr and others at the Justice Department for bringing the family some closure. She became emotional when she spoke about the apologies from Bernard before he died and from an accomplice, Christopher Vialva, who was executed in September. "The apology and remorse ... helped very much heal my heart," she said, beginning to cry and then recomposing herself. "I can very much say: I forgive them." Alfred Bourgeois, a 56-year-old Louisiana truck driver, is set to die on Friday for killing his two-year-old daughter by repeatedly slamming her head into a truck’s windows and dashboard. Bourgeois’ lawyers alleged he was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty, but several courts said evidence didn’t support that claim. Just before the execution was scheduled, Bernard’s lawyers filed papers with the Supreme Court seeking to halt the execution, but the high court denied the request, clearing the way for the execution to proceed. Bernard had been crocheting in prison and even launched a death-row crocheting group in which inmates have shared patterns for making sweaters, blankets and hats, said Ashley Kincaid Eve, an anti-death penalty activist. Federal executions during a presidential transfer of power also are rare, especially during a transition from a death-penalty proponent to a president-elect like Biden opposed to capital punishment. The last time executions occurred in a lame-duck period was during the presidency of Grover Cleveland in the 1890s. Defence attorneys have argued in court and in a petition for clemency from Mr Trump that Bernard was a low-ranking, subservient member of the group. They say both Bagleys were likely dead before Bernard doused their car with lighter fluid and set it on fire, a claim that conflicts with government testimony at trial. Bernard, they say, had repeatedly expressed remorse. The case prompted calls for Trump to intervene, including from one prosecutor at his 2000 trial who now says racial bias may have influenced the nearly all-white jury’s imposition of a death sentence against Bernard, who is Black. Several jurors have also since said publicly that they regret not opting for life in prison instead.

Brandon Bernard put to death - one of five executions planned for Donald Trump's final days in office

The Trump administration on Thursday carried out its ninth federal execution of the year and the first during a presidential lame-duck period in 130 years.

Brandon Bernard, a Texas street-gang member, was put to death for his role in the slayings of a religious couple from Iowa more than two decades ago.

Four more federal executions, including one on Friday, are planned in the weeks before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The case of Brandon Bernard, who received a lethal injection of phenobarbital inside a death chamber at a US prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, was a rare execution of a person who was in his teens when his crime was committed.

Several high-profile figures, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, had appealed to President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison.

"I’m so messed up right now," Kardashian West said. "They killed Brandon.  He was such a reformed person. So hopeful and positive until the end. More importantly he is sorry, so sorry for the hurt and pain he has caused others."

With witnesses looking on from behind a glass barrier, the 40-year-old Bernard was pronounced dead at 9:27 p.m. Eastern time.

Bernard directed his last words to the family of the couple he killed, speaking with striking calm for someone who knew he was about to die. "I’m sorry," he said, lifting his head and looking at the witness-room windows. "That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day."

As he spoke before he died, Bernard showed no outward signs of fear, distress or apprehension, speaking lucidly and naturally as witnesses looked on behind a glass barrier. Speaking for more than three minutes, Bernard said he had been waiting for this chance to say he was sorry - not only to the victims’ family, but also for the pain he caused his own family. Earlier, he said about his role in the killing, "I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t."

Bernard was 18 when he and four other teenagers abducted and robbed Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way from a Sunday service in Killeen, Texas. Federal executions were resumed by Trump in July after a 17-year hiatus despite coronavirus outbreak in U.S. prisons.

Todd Bagley’s mother, Georgia, spoke to reporters within 30 minutes of the execution, saying she wanted to thank Trump, Attorney General William Barr and others at the Justice Department for bringing the family some closure. She became emotional when she spoke about the apologies from Bernard before he died and from an accomplice, Christopher Vialva, who was executed in September. "The apology and remorse ... helped very much heal my heart," she said, beginning to cry and then recomposing herself. "I can very much say: I forgive them."

Alfred Bourgeois, a 56-year-old Louisiana truck driver, is set to die on Friday for killing his two-year-old daughter by repeatedly slamming her head into a truck’s windows and dashboard. Bourgeois’ lawyers alleged he was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty, but several courts said evidence didn’t support that claim.

Just before the execution was scheduled, Bernard’s lawyers filed papers with the Supreme Court seeking to halt the execution, but the high court denied the request, clearing the way for the execution to proceed.

Bernard had been crocheting in prison and even launched a death-row crocheting group in which inmates have shared patterns for making sweaters, blankets and hats, said Ashley Kincaid Eve, an anti-death penalty activist.

Federal executions during a presidential transfer of power also are rare, especially during a transition from a death-penalty proponent to a president-elect like Biden opposed to capital punishment. The last time executions occurred in a lame-duck period was during the presidency of Grover Cleveland in the 1890s.

Defence attorneys have argued in court and in a petition for clemency from Mr Trump that Bernard was a low-ranking, subservient member of the group. They say both Bagleys were likely dead before Bernard doused their car with lighter fluid and set it on fire, a claim that conflicts with government testimony at trial. Bernard, they say, had repeatedly expressed remorse.

The case prompted calls for Trump to intervene, including from one prosecutor at his 2000 trial who now says racial bias may have influenced the nearly all-white jury’s imposition of a death sentence against Bernard, who is Black. Several jurors have also since said publicly that they regret not opting for life in prison instead.