Kim Kardashian has been studying to become a lawyer after being inspired by stories of men and women behind bars. For the last two years, Kardashian has campaigned for changes to the US justice system focusing on long sentences handed down to first-time offenders and the disproportionate effect on ethnic minority communities.
Her first major win came in 2018 when she lobbied the White House on behalf of a 63-year-old grandmother jailed for life named Alice Johnson. Johnson was later granted clemency in a high-profile decision by Donald Trump.In March of this year, she visited the White House with three women she had recently freed from prison. The women were jailed for drug-related and white-collar crimes, and all had young children when imprisoned. These are only a few of the lives Kardashian has helped change, there are too many to name and pinpoint. But on Thursday, December 10th Kardashian expressed her heartbreak after she was unable to stop the execution of an inmate who had become a friend, 40-year-old Brandon Bernard. Kardashian fought hard with her lawyers to ask for more time and stop the execution. (Trigger Warning: Murder, Death)
If executed tomorrow, Brandon will die having never been able to touch his children. All his visits with them have been behind glass, though this has not deterred him from being the best father he can be from prison. pic.twitter.com/aMPBr1As1w— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 10, 2020
Bernard died by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Thursday night. According to BBC, Bernard was convicted of murder in 1999 when he was 18 years old and is the youngest offender to be executed by the United States in nearly 70 years. He was given the death penalty for his involvement in the murder of Todd and Stacie Bagley and was one of five teenagers accused of robbing and forcing them into the trunk of their car in Texas.
They were shot in the trunk of the car by 19-year-old Christopher Vialva before Bernard set the car on fire. Government testimony said that while Todd died instantly, Stacie had soot in her airway, signaling that she had died from smoke inhalation and not the gunshot wound. Bernard‘s lawyers said he feared what would happen to him if he refused to follow the orders of Vialva, who was executed in September.
Learn about Brandon Bernard https://t.co/YWMD6sZXs6— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 10, 2020
Kardashian pleaded for the life of who she called a reformed man. She used her platform to share details about his case and ask people to become aware, sign petitions, and get vocal. The day before his execution on December 9th, Kardashian tweeted “Most of the time executions happen, in our names, without a lot of attention given to them. This is unacceptable. For the next 24 hours I will be tweeting about Brandon and his case and why his life should be spared by @realDonaldTrump” She continued to post phone numbers people can call to ask Trump to commute his sentence and tagged him in each tweet.
She later shared a photo of his family with 5 reasons he should not be executed. Bernard was supported by advocates, celebrities, the prosecutor who jailed him, and 5 out of 9 jurors who convicted him. He continuously expressed his regret and sorrow for his actions, and his final words were an apology to the victims family.
#BrandonBernard should not be executed:— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 10, 2020
1. He was 18 at the time.
2. He was not the shooter.
3. The prosecutor and 5 of the jurors now support clemency.
4. He’s spent decades in prison w/out a write up, helping at risk youth.
5. There’s bipartisan support for his commutation. pic.twitter.com/18GugdtuOs
On the day of his execution, Kardashian continued to express her sadness on Instagram stories and Twitter and counted down the hours until he was executed. After his death, Kardashian wrote, “I‘m so messed up right now. They killed Brandon. He was such a reformed person. So hopeful and positive until the end. More importantly he is sorry, so sorry for the hurt and pain he has caused others. As he was in the chair his attorney called me and they just had their last call and said this... Brandon said he loves you and wants to say thank you will get he said he doesn’t feel too claustrophobic in the chair.”
Kardashian also shared a message from Bernard that said, “Brandon wanted me to tell every single person who worked on his behalf supporting him anyway a huge thank you. He was certain he was going to have the chance to tell you all himself and write you all letters but he told me to tell you all how grateful he is for you! His main message that he learned in his life was to not hang out with the wrong crowd that was so important to him that he shared that with the youth. They got him caught up and he made poor choices.” Kardashian‘s final tweet in the last 24 hours said “I could go on and on about what an amazing person Brandon was. I do know he left this earth feeling supported and loved and at peace. This just has to change: our system is so f[***]ed up.” While Kim’s sisters stayed quiet on the matter, Kendall Jenner retweeted Kim’s tweeted and added, “This just breaks my heart.”
A couple of hours later Kardashian posted a photo of Bernard with his family on Instagram and captioned the post, “Rest Peacefully Brandon Bernard 🕊. It was so great getting to know him. Especially on National Human Rights Day I hope we all can have a little compassion for the men and women who are locked up, many of whom have spent their time inside learning and growing and changing. Just a quick reminder that sometimes people rehabilitate and reform their lives into being a great person when they make awful choices as children. My fight to save a life from the unjust death penalty never takes away my empathy I have for the victims and their families. Everyone is hurting and no body wins here, I just pray for peace for everyone involved.”
Other celebrities reacted to Bernard’s execution. Charmed star Alyssa Milano tweeted, “Abolish the death penalty.” TikTok star Charlie D’Amelio tweeted, “my heart is breaking reading everything going on right now this is not right brandon bernard does not deserve this.” YouTuber James Charles added, ”I’ve been filming all day & just logged on and am now reading everything about Brandon Bernard - my heart hurts. Broken heart Disappointed but not surprised by the SCOTUS petition rejection as well. We need a government that listens to our voices. This f****** sucks.”
Bernards death is the ninth federal execution under President Trump. There are 4 more taking place before President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20th inauguration - breaking a 130-year-old precedent of pausing executions amid a presidential transition. According to BBC, if all five take place, he will be the country’s most prolific execution president in more than a century- overseeing the executions of 13 death row inmates since July of this year.