'Abolish death penalty': Brandon Bernard's execution sees Bernie Sanders, AOC and top Democrats rally together
40-year-old Bernard, whose last-minute bid for clemency was rejected by the US Supreme Court, was executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana
Several prominent Democrats were outraged following the execution of Brandon Bernard on Thursday, December 10, for a crime committed when he was a teenager, with some calling for the abolition of the death penalty altogether.
The 40-year-old Bernard — whose last-minute bid for clemency was rejected by the US Supreme Court — was executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, according to a Newsweek report. "I wish I could take it all back, but I can't," Bernard said of his role in the 1999 kidnapping and killing of two youth ministers, prior to his death. Christopher Vialva, one of his co-defendants, was executed on September 22.
For some reason, Bernard's case became a cause celebre among several high-profile figures and notable Democrats — all demanding a stay of execution. According to Newsweek, among those who supported his case were reality TV star Kim Kardashian West and Democrat Senators Richard Durbin (IL) and Cory Booker (NJ). Meanwhile, over half a million people signed a change.org petition calling for the death sentence to be commuted to life in prison.
The controversial case soon snowballed into a movement and sparked a debate about the justice of the death penalty. Top Democrats, especially the far-left wing, appeared to use the same script as they weighed in on the issue. "Yes. We must abolish the death penalty — period," tweeted Vermont Senator and former Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Freshman Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ayanna Presley (MA) echoed the same phrase: "Abolish the death penalty." New York Mayor Bill de Blasio added: "This is absolutely sickening. Brandon Bernard should still be alive. Abolish the death penalty." Meanwhile, the Democratic Coalition declared that Bernard "has been executed by lethal injection in Trump's manic quest to cause as much death as possible on his way out the door."
Abolish the death penalty.— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) December 11, 2020
Yes. We must abolish the death penalty— period.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 11, 2020
This is absolutely sickening. Brandon Bernard should still be alive.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 11, 2020
Abolish the death penalty. https://t.co/5QdAZTc4J4
Abolish the death penalty.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 11, 2020
The attack on the Trump administration comes as four more federal executions are scheduled between Friday and January 15, 2021, in the lame-duck period of his administration. It's worth noting that this is the first time in 130 years that executions are taking place during a presidential transition, according to Newsweek.
Expert evidence could have allowed Bernard to avoid a death sentence, according to his attorneys, but it had not been presented at his trial. Five jurors in the case reportedly rescinded their support for the death sentence and stood behind the lead appellate prosecutor in urging the President to commute the death sentence to life without parole. In a statement to Newsweek, Bernard's lawyer Robert Owen described his client's execution as "a stain on America's criminal justice system."
Time of his execution and last words
The 40-year-old prisoner was set to be executed at 5 pm CT in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was finally put to death by lethal injection on December 10 and was pronounced dead at 9.27 pm CT. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Indiana codes state that the execution of a death row inmate must take place before sunrise on the execution day.
In his last words before death, Bernard reportedly addressed the families of his victims, Todd and Stacie Bagley, through the glass window, saying: "I'm sorry. That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day."