As the end of his life approached, Brandon Bernard and his legal team made desperate pleas to anyone who could possibly help, including activists, advocates, celebrities, music producers, and even controversial political figures, in a last-ditch effort to halt his scheduled execution.
Despite their tireless efforts, they were ultimately unable to secure a reprieve for Bernard. However, one notable figure who never got the opportunity to assist in their efforts was Kim Kardashian, who had joined Bernard’s team in November 2020 and had a history of successfully advocating for sentence commutations with then-President Donald Trump.
According to a devastating report from Rolling Stone, the former president had abruptly stopped taking Kardashian’s calls by then.
Kardashian seemed to have had Trump’s ear since 2018, when she led the public crusade for the clemency of Alice Marie Johnson, a mother of five from Mississippi who’d served 21 years in prison for her role in a cocaine-trafficking ring. Just one month after they met in the Oval Office, Trump commuted Johnson’s life sentence. By 2019, Kardashian was on hand at the White House for his signing of a criminal justice reform bill, and in 2020, she lauded Trump after he granted clemency to a handful of other women.
But after Kardashian appeared to celebrate Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, sources told Rolling Stone that Trump told his staff that he didn’t want to hear “a word” from her about anything—most of all, Bernard’s forthcoming execution.
“They’re gonna have to get Kanye to call me instead,” Trump allegedly told staffers. Kanye did not call on Bernard’s behalf, but celebrity attorney and friend to all questionable millionaires and billionaires, Alan Dershowitz, did. On a 20-minute call, Dershowitz is said to have cited the fact that Bernard was sentenced for his involvement in a 1999 carjacking and double homicide, had already spent more than half of his life in prison, had never accumulated any infractions, and had dedicated himself to counseling at-risk youth.
Instead, Trump sided with the family of the victims of the carjacking—despite the fact that Bernard never once fired the gun that ended the lives of two youth ministers—claiming the crime was too horrific. On the day of his execution, Bernard was injected with a fatal dose of Pentobarbital, a barbiturate that “cripples the central nervous system, shutting down the lungs and heart.”
“As the drug started taking its effect, he’s looking in our direction, as if he just wanted somebody to help him,” Chuck Formosa, a defense investigator who developed a friendship with Bernard and attended the execution, told Rolling Stone. “It was the most fucked-up thing I’ve ever seen, watching them kill my friend.”
Bernard was one of 13 people to be executed within a six-month period during Trump’s administration, Rolling Stone reported. Among the others was Lisa Montgomery, a severely mentally ill and traumatized 52-year-old woman who endured decades of sexual assault, beatings, and gang rape, before strangling a pregnant woman to death. Before Trump’s murder spree in 2020, there had been just three federal executions in 60 years.
In his memoir, One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General, Trump’s attorney general and a longtime death-penalty advocate Bill Barr recalled there was not one discussion with the former president with regard to any of the 13 inmates who were put to death.
According to Rolling Stone, Bernard’s final words were: “I’m sorry. That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”