Hale: Horrific death of Brandon Bernard and the corruption of the death penalty

EllieAna Hale

On Dec. 10 at approximately 9:27 p.m., Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old black man from Indiana, was killed at the hands of the government due to the Trump Administration’s initiative for progressing the death penalty while the transition of power takes place. 

Let’s begin with why Bernard was in prison in the first place and why his crime didn’t fit the punishment.

Bernard committed a gang-related crime that involved the disposal of two bodies and evidence. He was 18 years old when it happened in 2000, leaving him with life without parole after being charged with two counts of murder. Later developments revealed he was an accomplice to the crime, but no change in the case was made.

Throughout his 22 years in prison, Bernard exhibited positive behavior and had no issues during his time at the prison. 

There was no clear rationale to go forth with his death, except the cruelty that was represented by it. 

Due to the initiative that took place by the Trump Administration, Bernard was sentenced to capital punishment at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.

He died two hours later, pleading for his life and justice until the last moment. 

He never had the chance to see his children outside of those concrete, gray walls.

Bernard’s life will be the fourteenth life taken from the 53 planned deaths under the Trump Administration.

Throughout this horrific process, social media created a storm in attempts to save Bernard’s life. 

Kim Kardashian leading the platform, begging her followers to sign petitions, make phone calls, send emails, and do anything in their power to save this man’s life. 

Over 390,000 people signed the main petition to save Bernard’s life. 

Even more, phone calls were made on Bernard’s behalf.

At the end of the tragic day, his life was still taken.

This now opens the conversation about the cruelty of capital punishment and the systemic racism found within the system. 

The death penalty is an expensive, biased and flawed system that is used by primarily white politicians and lawmakers to “play God.”

The system targets the most vulnerable populations and corrupts the integrity of the justice system as a whole.

Ranging from innocent lives being taken, inadequate counsel and the foundation of racist history.

Over half of the cases that involve capital punishment, according to The Equal Justice Initiative, “the defendant was falsely accused of a crime that never happened.”

Forcing disadvantaged individuals to plead for their innocent lives and beg not to die is the perfect example of relentless brutality exhibited by the government. 

Those who are innocent, don’t even have a chance to prove their claims.

“The failure to provide adequate counsel to capital defendants and people sentenced to death is a defining feature of the American death penalty,” the EJI said. “…Too often they fail to adequately investigate cases, call witnesses, and challenge forensic evidence”

Capital punishment attacks lower socio-economic communities that can’t afford the desperate help they need in order to simply continue living. 

The death penalty is built on the foundation of archaic ideas that resemble the big bully who burns ants with a magnifying glass. 

The punishment is built on the history of the killing of black individuals.

It begins in 1915, with lynchings disguised as “court-ordered” punishment.

During this time, two-thirds of those executed through capital punishment were black, and that percentage only grew as the fire of racism grew.

The Equal Justice Initiative declared this year that “the death penalty in America is a direct descendent of lynching.”

In 1972, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty law on grounds that “it looked too much like a lynch-law.” The South revolted and began making its own death penalty laws. 

According to the EJI, “A decade later, the Court considered statistical evidence presented in showing that Georgia defendants were more than four times as likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim was white than if the victim was Black.”

Today, the accused person in trials that involve capital punishment is often the only person of color in the room, thus leaving the vulnerable without support. 

In the 2000 trial of Bernard, he was a lone black man who faced a jury of 11 white men.

His fate was decided the moment he walked into the courtroom.

Racism is just as relevant and prevalent in the rooms of justice and the halls leading to the execution room as it was in 1915. The only difference is that now that racism is disguised as grotesque justice.

Bernard’s death is the first of many to come during this transitional period. 

The fight goes on. 

Not only does his murder reflect the grim future of preventing and abolishing capital punishment, but it reflects on the history of a systematically, inhumane system that allows the magnifying glass to keep burning the ants.