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Kim Kardashian West Pushes For Halt To Execution Of Brandon Bernard, Who Was Sentenced To Die For Murder Committed At 18
Brandon Bernard was just a teen when he participated in the murders of youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley. Now advocates, including a former federal prosecutor who worked on the case and several jurors, want to see his death penalty commuted.
Brandon Bernard is currently scheduled to die by lethal injection on Dec. 10, according to the Department of Justice. His death sentence stems from the 1999 kidnapping and killing of Todd and Stacie Bagley, who worked as youth ministers, on a military reservation in Texas.
The Bagleys had given a ride to a group of teens, who then held them at gunpoint and forced the couple into the trunk. They pleaded for their life before Bernard and an accomplice doused the vehicle in lighter fluid, according to the Justice Department. They were shot in the head by one of the teens, Christopher Vialva, before Bernard set the car on fire.
Todd had died instantly from the gunshot wound, but Stacie was still alive when Bernard set the fire. She died of smoke inhalation, authorities said.
Bernard, 18 at the time of the crime, was found guilty in 2000 for his role in the murders and sentenced to death. Vialva, 19 at the time, was executed for his role in the murder in September.
Bernard's impending execution has disturbed Kardashian West. In a series of tweets Sunday, she said:
"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. My heart breaks for everyone involved."
"While Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now. ... 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. Brandon believed both were dead, though Stacie was not, and was fearful for his own life, so he made the terrible decision to comply."
On a website advocating against his execution, Bernard's defense team also argued that he got caught up in a situation that had spiraled out of control.
"Brandon is not innocent, and the crime is tragic – it resulted in the deaths of two good Samaritans, Todd and Stacie Bagley, who were white. But while Brandon’s role might warrant very severe punishment, it does not warrant a death sentence. Brandon was not present when the carjacking was initiated, having wandered to a nearby store to play video games. Brandon was absent from most of the events during the carjacking, robbery, and mistreatment of the Bagleys. Brandon also did not shoot anyone."
Kardashian West has been using her platform on social media to plead for help. She tweeted the hashtag #HelpSaveBrandon in one tweet that contains photos of Bernard. She also tweeted out videos of several former jurors stating that they don’t want Bernard to die. She noted that “two jurors who have since stated that had they learned about Brandon's background or how at just a few months past 18 his brain was still developing, they would NOT have voted for the death penalty.”
Angela Moore, the federal prosecutor who defended Bernard’s death sentence on appeal, has written an op-ed for the Indystar in which she now states that she wants Bernard to live.
“Many of these kids were in the wrong place or with the wrong people, like Brandon. Sometimes, like Brandon, they did not anticipate that a violent crime would occur until circumstances got away from them,” Moore wrote. “My experience with teenagers who have committed violent crimes, especially boys of color, has taught me much about the recklessness and fragility of adolescents, as well as their ability to mature and change.”
Kardashian West has encouraged her supporters to sign a letter urging President Donald Trump to commute his death sentence to life in prison. The Trump administration has scheduled two executions, including Bernard's, before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next month.
Kardashian West is the host of the Oxygen series "Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project," a show in which she features inmates she feels have paid their debt to society but are still in prison. She has also pushed for clemency for prisoners like Alice Johnson, a nonviolent offender who was released from prison after Kardashian West petitioned President Trump for her release. She also pushed for the successful release of Cyntoia Brown, a sex-trafficking victim who killed a man when she was teen.