Trump’s killing spree: The inside story of his race to execute every prisoner he could

Trump’s killing spree: The inside story of his race to execute every prisoner he could

Rolling Stone reports:

In the final moments of Brandon Bernard’s life, before he was executed by lethal injection at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Dec. 10, 2020, President Donald Trump picked up the phone to entertain a final plea for mercy on Bernard’s behalf. The call was not with Bernard’s family or his attorneys. Nor was it with representatives from the Justice Department’s Pardon Attorney office, who had recommended just days earlier that Trump spare Bernard’s life.

Rather, the call was with Jamal Fincher Jones, better known as Polow da Don, a music producer responsible for hits like Ludacris’ “Pimpin’ All Over the World” and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” Jones didn’t know Bernard, but he had publicly endorsed Trump for reelection — and that, Bernard’s advocates had correctly suspected, gave him the best chance of getting the president’s ear.

Trump took the call, but unfortunately for Bernard, it was too late. The president had days earlier spoken with the family of the victims in Bernard’s case — a young couple who’d been kidnapped and killed — and promised them the execution would go forward. “I’m sorry,” he told Jones. “I can’t do it.”

Bernard was already in the execution chamber while Trump and Jones were talking. Earlier that evening, the Supreme Court had rejected his lawyers’ petition to delay the execution, and Trump’s refusal to intervene sealed his fate. Granted a final phone call, Bernard spoke with the attorneys and investigators who’d taken on his case and become his friends, telling them repeatedly that he loved them, before the line went dead. Shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time, he was injected with Pentobarbital, a drug 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,” says Chuck Formosa, a defense investigator who’d grown close with Bernard after joining his cause in 2008 and attended the execution. “It was the most fucked-up thing I’ve ever seen, watching them kill my friend.”

By 9:27 p.m. Bernard was dead. In that moment, he became the ninth of 13 people executed in the final six months of the Trump administration — more federal executions than in the previous 10 administrations combined. Of the 13, six were put to death after Trump lost the election, his Justice Department accelerating the schedule to ensure they would die before the incoming administration could intercede. Before Trump, there had been only three federal executions since 1963; in January 2021, Trump oversaw three executions during a single four-day stretch. [Continue reading…]

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