+
upworthy
Culture

Brandon Bernard's senseless execution shows just how wrong the federal death penalty really is

Brandon Bernard's senseless execution shows just how wrong the federal death penalty really is

Brandon Bernard, 40, was executed at 9:27 pm Thursday night at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana for a crime he committed when he was 18.

"I'm sorry," Brandon Bernard said, opening his three-minute speech that would amount to his final words."That's the only words I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day."

In 1999, Christian Vialva and three teen boys car-jacked Todd and Stacie Bagley in Killeen, Texas. The Bagley's were thrown in the trunk of their car and both were shot in the head. Bernard was not present for the abduction but was tasked with setting the car on fire to destroy the evidence.

Bernard believed that both of the Bagley's were dead, but Stacie was still alive in the trunk when Bernard set the car ablaze.

Vialva was executed for his involvement in the crime in September.


The Supreme Court Thursday night declined to intervene in Bernard's case. Although three justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer said they would have granted the application to stay the execution. Five of the jurors in the original case have since changed their minds saying that they want his sentence commuted.

The trial became a cause celeb when Kim Kardashian West, daughter of famed attorney Robert Kardashian, advocated on Bernard's behalf on Twitter.

Bernard clearly was a participant in a brutal act of violence and terror. But he was a teenager at the time and his involvement in Stacie's death was unintentional.

Bernard's death was completely avoidable because there had been a 17-year moratorium on federal executions until U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr reinstated them last July.

Barr said in a 2019 statement that "we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

Since there have been nine federal executions and four more are scheduled to take place before Trump leaves office on January 20.

Trump has been completely silent on all of the executions.

According to a former Trump senior staffer, he has no problem with using the most brutal form of state power on American citizens. "If it were up to him, we would return to the old days where it was eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth — or we would forget about proportionality altogether," the former official told The Daily Beast in July. "He would talk about lining up drug dealers and gang members in front of a firing squad."

via Tommy Woodard / Flickr

The administration's decision to go forward with the executions is also a break from historical norms. The federal executions are the first to have occurred during a lame-duck presidency in 130 years.

The state-sponsored killings are also completely arbitrary being that when Joe Biden takes office he vows to end them. Biden "opposes the death penalty now and in the future," press secretary TJ Ducklo said.

While it's easy to come to the conclusion that some acts perpetrated by humans are so heinous they should be punishable by death, capital punishment makes a very damning statement about the state that wields it and its citizens.

It's a statement that some humans are irredeemable and cannot be forgiven. It says that our criminal justice system is ultimately about punishment, not reform. It says the only way to enact justice for some victims is through violence.

The death penalty tells people that murder is wrong unless it's carried out by the state.

Ultimately, as long as the criminal justice system is administered by humans it will be fallible. It's proven to be racist and there are over 170 cases of people being sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit since 1973. According to the ACLU, it isn't even an effective crime deterrent.

Why should American citizens continue to empower such an unreliable system make the ultimate judgment on a person's life?

Tony Trapani discovers a letter his wife hid from him since 1959.

Tony Trapani and his wife were married for 50 years despite the heartache of being unable to have children. "She wanted children,” Trapani told Fox 17. "She couldn't have any. She tried and tried." Even though they endured the pain of infertility, Tony's love for his wife never wavered and he cherished every moment they spent together.

After his wife passed away when Tony was 81 years old, he undertook the heartbreaking task of sorting out all of her belongings. That’s when he stumbled upon a carefully concealed letter in a filing cabinet hidden for over half a century.

The letter was addressed to Tony and dated March 1959, but this was the first time he had seen it. His wife must have opened it, read it and hid it from him. The letter came from Shirley Childress, a woman Tony had once been close with before his marriage. She reached out, reminiscing about their past and revealing a secret that would change Tony's world forever.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Can flying to college twice a week really be cheaper than renting?

Some students choose to live at home while they go to college to save money on living expenses, but that's generally only an option for families who live in college towns or cities with large universities where a student can easily commute.

For University of British Columbia student Tim Chen, that "easy commute" is more than 400 miles each way.

Twice a week, Chen hops on a flight from his home city of Calgary, flies a little more than an hour to Vancouver to attend his classes, then flies back home the same night. And though it's hard to believe, this routine actually saves him approximately $1,000 a month.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Dad takes 7-week paternity leave after his second child is born and is stunned by the results

"These past seven weeks really opened up my eyes on how the household has actually ran, and 110% of that is because of my wife."

@ustheremingtons/TikTok

There's a lot to be gleaned from this.

Participating in paternity leave offers fathers so much more than an opportunity to bond with their new kids. It also allows them to help around the house and take on domestic responsibilities that many new mothers have to face alone…while also tending to a newborn.

All in all, it enables couples to handle the daunting new chapter as a team, making it less stressful on both parties. Or at least equally stressful on both parties. Democracy!

TikTok creator and dad Caleb Remington, from the popular account @ustheremingtons, confesses that for baby number one, he wasn’t able to take a “single day of paternity leave.”

This time around, for baby number two, Remington had the privilege of taking seven weeks off (to be clear—his employer offered four weeks, and he used an additional three weeks of PTO).

The time off changed Remington’s entire outlook on parenting, and his insights are something all parents could probably use.

Keep ReadingShow less
Internet

Man goes out of his way to leave tip for a server after realizing he grabbed the wrong receipt

Instead of just brushing it off and moving on, the man wrote out a note explaining what happened with a sincere apology along with a $20 cash tip and delivered it to the restaurant.

Man goes out of his way to leave forgotten tip for server

Being in the service industry can be hard. People have to spend long hours on their feet, deal with repetitive movements that can create pain and sometimes interact with not so nice customers. When you rely on tips for survival on top of everything else, it can feel like a bit of a gut punch when someone decides not to leave you one despite how good your service was.

One customer must've realized the disappointment that can occur after not receiving a tip when serving tables because he went out of his way to give one. In a post shared on Reddit, a customer revealed in a letter that he realized he took the wrong receipt after leaving. Instead of taking the blank one, he took the merchant's copy which holds the tip amount and his signature.

The error was discovered when he was checking his bank account and saw the amount taken off of his card was not the amount he expected. That's when he decided to check the receipt from that day and saw the error.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

Scientists have finally figured out how whales are able to 'sing' underwater

The physical mechanism they use has been a mystery until now.

Baleen whales include blue, humpback, gray, fin, sei, minke whales and more.

We've long known that baleen whales sing underwater and that males sing in tropical waters to attract females for mating. What we haven't known is how they're able to do it.

When humans make sound underwater, we expel air over through our vocal chords and the air we release rises to the surface as bubbles. But baleen whales don't have vocal chords, and they don't create bubbles when they vocalize. Toothed whales, such as sperm whales, beaked whales, dolphins and porpoises, have an organ in their nasal passages that allows them to vocalize, but baleen whales such as humpback, gray and blue whales don't.

Whales are notoriously difficult to study because of their size and the environment they require, which is why the mechanism behind whale song has remained a mystery for so long. It's not like scientists can just pluck a whale out of the ocean and stick it in an x-ray machine while it's singing to see what's happening inside its body to create the sound. Scientists had theories, but no one really knew how baleen whales sing.

Now, thanks to researchers at the University of Denmark, that mystery has been solved.

Keep ReadingShow less

You can learn a lot by alayzing faces.

There are countless situations in life where we have to figure out how someone really feels, but they have a good poker face that keeps their feelings well-hidden. According to body language expert Terry Vaughan even the most deceptive people in the world have a tell: the left and right sides of their face don’t usually match.

So, which side do we believe? Vaughan says the left.

“The reason this is a powerful hack is because the left side of the face is more likely to reveal the ‘true emotion’ or the ‘dominant’ emotion if there’s a mix,” Vaughan says. The reason? “The right hemisphere of our brain does more heavy lifting in dealing with processing emotions. The left hemisphere…is a little more analytical or ‘strategic.’”

Keep ReadingShow less