Brandon Bernard is an African-American man from Texas, United States. He was one of the accomplices of Christopher Andre Vialva, the African-American man who killed white couple Todd Bagley and Stacie Bagley.
“I crochet many items; some I sell, others I donate,” Bernard wrote in his Write a Prisoner profile. “I like to play guitar. I love to read; fantasy is my favorite genre. One of my favorite books is ‘Pillars of Earth.'”
Bernard’s two daughters Kiara Bernard and Taneah Bernard first met each other as teenagers while visiting him at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA. Here are 13 more things about him:
- He was born in 1980 in San Antonio, Texas at the same hospital where his mother Thelma Bernard worked as an Army nurse. He has a sister named Quiona Bernard and a brother named Max Bernard, who were born in December 1987 and in 1991, respectively.
- The Army transferred his mother to Fairbanks, Alaska, USA so her family moved there in 1982 then moved her back to Texas in November 1984 particularly on Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, where he spent most of his childhood. As a kid, he struggled with asthma. In 1986, he started school at the Seventh-Day Adventist Academy in Killeen. In 1987, he spent the summer in Colorado, USA with his mother who was temporarily assigned there for a medical training.
- In June 1992, his mother had an open-heart surgery to correct a hole in her heart. In September 1992, his drunk father struck his mother in the chest and sprayed her with mace. His parents divorced in 1993. His father left their house and was later diagnosed as HIV-positive.
- His cousin Melsimeon Pollock came to live with his family in 1994 and encouraged him to help him burglarize houses in January 1995. The two were eventually caught and he bounced between his parents’ houses, switched schools several times and spent five months at a juvenile residential living facility in Brownwood, Texas in 1995. In 2016, Pollock wrote in a declaration, “Brandon stole things with me because Brandon knew I needed the money and Brandon wanted to support me and feel a sense of belonging. Brandon would not have broken into these houses on his own. He is not a mastermind, Brandon just followed what others had planned.”
- As a teenager, he became involved with loosely organized gang of neighborhood friends called 212 Piru Bloods. At same time, he actively attended a Seventh Day Adventist church. In 1996, he tried to look for a job but failed. He passed the GED examination in July 1997 and enrolled in the 12th grade at Killeen High School for the 1997-1998 school year but failed to maintain good attendance and good grades. In the summer of 1998, he tried to enlist in the Army but was rejected because of his juvenile record. In the fall of 1998, his parents explored a possible reconciliation, which he did not support.
- On June 21, 1999, Vialva and their fellow 212 Piru Bloods gang members Christopher Lewis, Tony Sparks and Terry Brown carjacked Todd and Stacie. They called him because they needed someone with a car to escape in and he joined the group at 7:30 p.m. that day. It was Vialva who shot the couple. Following Vialva’s order, he set Todd and Stacie’s car on fire using lighter fluid while the couple was in it. Todd was already dead before being burned while Stacie died of smoke inhalation.
- Because the murders were committed on Fort Hood, he and Vialva were tried in federal court. On June 13, 2000, a jury of 11 white people and one African-American person at his trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas found him and Vialva guilty of carjacking, first-degree murder on a government reservation, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to commit murder. The jury unanimously voted for the two to receive the death penalty.
- In 2018, his lawyers discovered that the government had withheld evidence that may have helped him during his trial years earlier.
- On October 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on December 10, 2020 at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute where Vialva was executed by lethal injection on September 24, 2020.
- In 2020, five of the nine surviving jurors who sentenced him and Vialva to death for the killings of Todd and Stacie on Fort Hood called on Trump to commute his sentence. Among them were Jason Fuller and Gary McClung. Angela Moore, who served as an assistant U.S attorney for the Western District of Texas from 1998 to 2002, was the federal prosecutor who defended his death verdict on appeal. In an IndyStar op-ed published on November 18, 2020, she explained why a court or Trump should stop his execution.
- During a court hearing on Zoom from death row at the federal prison in Terre Haute on December 2, 2020, federal public defender John Carpenter argued on behalf of him that the U.S. government cannot legally execute him because he has not yet exhausted all of his appeals. After an hour, Judge Alan Albright decided that his execution could go forward as planned.
- Weeks before his execution, Kiara, his mother, his two siblings and his aunt Rahsha Williams visited him in Terre Haute. Williams told WTHI-TV 10, “I went there ready to encourage him and be uplifting to him and it was just the opposite. He uplifted us and he’s at peace and he has accepted what has happened but he is hopeful.”
- Kim Kardashian West started a petition to stop him from getting executed. In 2018, she started working with the Donald Trump administration on prison reform. On December 10, 2020, she took to Twitter to ask the 45th U.S. president to commute his sentence to life in prison. On the same day, lawyers Allen Dershowitz and Ken Starr joined his defense team. In the end, he was executed and was pronounced dead at 9:27 p.m.