For a long time, human beings have tried to understand the intricacies and uphold the foundations of justice. Yet, as a society we have time and again failed to implement this concept we hold so dearly.
While the idea of justice exists only to keep alive the dream of a world where humanity is not lost, then how is it that the same justice system indulges in the killing of another human being. Maybe the system is flawed or maybe this the way it has to be, but how can someone ever really balance out all the good deeds and the bad deeds of a person?
While we spend another century finding the answer, death row inmate Brandon Bernard was executed in Indiana after last-minute clemency pleas were rejected by the US Supreme Court. The Trump administration went ahead with the execution despite the fact that several jurors pleaded for mercy on Bernard.
The story of Brandon Bernard
Bernard was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 for carjacking and killing Todd and Stacie Bagley, a Christian Youth Minister couple on federal land in Texas. The 40-year-old was convicted along with his accomplice Christopher Vialva.
Apparently, Vialva was the ring leader of the small-time gang that Bernard had gotten involved with. The Bagley’s were visiting Texas from Iowa. According to the evidentiary documents in the case files, Vialva was the one who came up with the plot to do carjacking.
Vialva along with two others, met up with Bernard and Terry Brown to seek help with his plan, so Bernard lent him his gun. But at the time when Todd and Stacie we followed and kidnapped, neither Bernard nor Brown were present. Vialva forced the Bagley’s into the car’s trunk at gunpoint and then drove around until finally meeting up again with Bernard and Brown.
Vialva decided that he had to kill the Bagley’s because they might’ve identified him if left alive. He had asked Bernard and Brown to buy some gasoline. Then five young men then drove to a deserted spot on the Fort Hood military station.
While Bernard poured the fuel over and inside the car, Vialva opened the trunk and shot Todd Bagley in the head with Bernard’s .40 caliper gun. He shot Stacie Bagley on the side of her face which knocked her unconscious. The car was then set to fire by Bernard. While the gunshot killed Todd instantly, Stacie’s autopsy report revealed that Stacie died from smoke inhalation.
Everything Wrong With Brandon Bernard’s Execution
Ever since Attorney General William Barr resumed the use of the federal death penalty earlier this year after a 17-year hiatus, Brandon Bernard’s execution was the ninth execution.
“Bernard has never had the opportunity to test the merits of those claims in court. Now he never will.”
Bernard was only 18 when he was coerced into the whole plan by Vialva. After spending over 20 years on death row Bernard had shown a reformed and caring character. In fact, he guided other inmates to not follow in his footsteps.
The defense prosecutors appointed to Bernard constantly protested that they were not provided with important case findings which would have proven that Bernard hadn’t planned on killing the Bagley’s and whatever action he took was in fear of Vialva getting action against him if he would’ve refused. In her dissent for Bernard’s conviction, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote,
“Today, the court allows the federal government to execute Brandon Bernard, despite Bernard’s troubling allegations that the government secured his death sentence by withholding exculpatory evidence and knowingly eliciting false testimony against him.”