By: Carlisle Myers
President Donald Trump’s order for the rapid execution of several inmates on death row has pushed several public figures to reconsider how necessary execution should be in criminal punishment.
Trump, currently in the final month of his presidential term, has federally executed eight inmates.
Now, with the controversy surrounding the execution of Brandon Bernard, an accomplice in the murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley, celebrities like Kim Kardashian West are calling on the Trump administration to halt further executions.
Bernard was sentenced to death in 2000 after a jury found him guilty of two counts of murder. He and accomplices robbed and murdered the Bagleys, two youth ministers, on a military reservation in Texas in 1999.
Kim Kardashian West tweeted on December 9 in response to Bernard’s scheduled execution: “Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old father is going to be executed tomorrow by our federal government. Having gotten to know Brandon, I am heartbroken about this execution I’m calling on @realDonaldTrump to grant Brandon a commutation and allow him to live out his sentence in prison.”
This is not Kardashian West’s first involvement in a criminal justice case—in 2018, she advocated and eventually won the fight for the release of Alice Johnson, a non-violent drug offender.
Johnson, who had been serving a life sentence since 1996, was freed from prison after President Donald Trump commuted her sentence.
Kardashian West used her previous success in advocating for prisoners’ rights as a boon towards the fight for Bernard’s commutation.
Clint Smith, a writer for The Atlantic and a contemporary poet, also showed his support of a commutation of Bernard’s sentence.
“Brandon Bernard is scheduled to be executed tonight. The crime was 20 years ago. He was a teenager. He didn’t pull the trigger,” tweeted Smith on December 10. “The Trump administration is on track to execute 13 people before he leaves office. It would be more federal executions than the past 67 years combined.”
Smith is right—according to the New York Times, the July execution of Daniel Lewis Lee, an American white supremacist, was the first federal execution in 17 years.
Brandon Bernard was federally executed at 9:27pm on December 10, despite Kardashian West and others’ desperate call to reconsider.
The execution of 13 would “cement Trump’s legacy as the most prolific execution president in over 130 years,” the Associated Press observed.
Sarah Jones of the Intelligencer wrote that Trump’s schedule executions act as a way to enforce law and order: “What matters to Trump…is the way things look. The executions are a way to show strength: Conservatives enforce order; liberals are too weak to bother.”
From either perspective, the executions of Brandon Bernard and others are highly unusual for one president to complete.
Even as he’s been criticized for pardoning or granting clemency for high-profile, wealthy individuals, President Trump has recognized many public figures’ efforts in pushing for prison and criminal reform.
This list of figures includes Kanye West, Kardashian West’s opinionated husband who attempted to run for president in both 2016 and 2020.
As the Trump administration counts down the days until the end of his presidential term, public figures and death penalty opposers bite their nails at what the administration has planned.