Brandon Bernard, who was just an 18-year-old Black youth in 1999 when he took part in a double murder in Texas, has been put to death by lethal injection.
After the Supreme Court denied a request for an emergency stay, Bernard, 40, was executed Thursday night at a federal penitentiary in Indiana.
He was the youngest person in nearly seven decades to be killed by the federal government for a crime committed while an adolescent.
Bernard was one of five gang members convicted of robbing and killing Stacie and Todd Bagley, two white married youth ministers, in 1999. One of his accomplices, accused gunman Christopher Vialva, was executed in September, while the three other co-defendants were given prison sentences because they were minors at the time and ineligible for the death penalty.
Bernard’s lawyers contested that while he took part in the robbery, he was unaware that his accomplices would kill the Bagleys.
In his last words, Bernard apologized to the families of the victims and his own family.
“I’m sorry. … I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t,” Bernard said, CNN reported. “That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”
His execution was the ninth this year since Attorney General William Barr restarted federal executions after 17 years. The government has four more planned in the remaining weeks of the Trump administration.
Kim Kardashian West, an outspoken advocate in recent years for criminal justice reform, detailed a phone call she had with Bernard just hours before he died.
“Hardest call I’ve ever had. Brandon, selfless as always, was focused on his family and making sure they are ok. He told me not to cry because our fight isn’t over,” Kardashian West tweeted Thursday. “When he told me he’s claustrophobic and they offered to give him a shot of sedative to calm him down before they put him in the chair, I literally lost it. I had to mute my phone so he wouldn’t hear me cry like that.”