The alleged crime ringleader, Mr Vialva, then 19, insisted that the young men kill the Bagleys. After Mr. Bernard and another accomplice bought lighter fluid, four of the young men who drove in two cars took the victims to a remote location on the Fort Hood Military Reservation.
Mr Bernard and Terry Brown, then 17, poured lighter liquid into the interior of the car, and Mr Vialva shot the victims with Mr Bernard’s gun, killing Mr Bagley and leaving Ms. Bagley unconscious, the Justice Department said. Mr. Bernard lit the car.
Although the government executed Mr Bernard and Mr Vialva, Mr Brown and another man involved in the crimes have been released from federal prison, and another accomplice is due to be released in 2030, according to a database from the Bureau of Prisons. Any of these three people, aged 15 to 17 at the time of the crime, were not eligible for the death penalty under federal death penalty law.
The Supreme Court later ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional for anyone under the age of 18 at the time of their crime. Mr Bernard’s supporters argued that the court did not take into account his youthfulness. Death penalty critics have noted that setting 18 as the age at which a defendant can be sentenced to death is arbitrary.
In a statement, two of Mr. Bernard’s lawyers alleged that their client did not kill anyone and several jurors said they had broken the original verdict, along with an appeals attorney on his case who joined in the appeal.
“Brandon’s life was important,” they said, describing his execution as “a stain on the American criminal justice system.”
Despite allegations by his defense that the government suppressed evidence that altered the calculation of Mr. Bernard’s verdict, the courts denied his motion to stay the execution. His lawyers criticized the government’s case, citing testimony indicating that Mr. Bernard held the lowest authority in the gang to which the government claimed he and other accomplices were linked.