The US federal government has executed prisoner Brandon Bernard, who was found guilty for his role in a 1999 double homicide in Texas, making him the ninth inmate to receive the federal death penalty this year.
Bernard, who was just 18 when he took part in the carjacking and murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley along with several accomplices, was killed by lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Center in Terre Haute, Indiana on Thursday night.
The 1999 slaying saw Bernard and four other men take the Bagley couple captive in their own vehicle before accomplice Christopher Vialva shot them. Bernard then doused the car in lighter fluid and set it ablaze. While Vialva was executed in September for his leading role in the killings, the two other abetters were given lighter sentences.
Bernard’s case has garnered national attention because the Donald Trump administration revived federal executions after a 17-year hiatus earlier this year. His lawyers maintain that prosecutors withheld key evidence during his trial, while the man’s young age at the time of the crime has been cited by prison reform activists as reason to forego the death penalty.
The convict himself has voiced regret for his part in the murders, offering an apology to the Bagley family with his final words.
“I’m sorry… I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t,” Bernard said. “That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”
Before Trump took power, the last federal execution was carried out in 2003 — Louis Jones, who was convicted of murder and kidnapping — but the current administration has resumed the practice. The government has authorized capital punishment for 13 inmates so far in 2020, nine of whom have already been executed. Though state governments routinely sentence inmates to death each year, executions have been far more rare on the federal level, seeing a total of just 45 since 1927, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
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