Attorneys for a Killeen man who is set to be executed this evening are holding out hope that an appeals court will grant an emergency stay of execution today.
Brandon Bernard, 40, is set to be executed at 6 p.m. at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
His attorneys have argued that new evidence uncovered in 2018 would have led to their client being sentenced to life in prison — instead of the death penalty — if the evidence had been presented in the 2000 trial.
Bernard was convicted of participating in the murders of youth pastors Todd and Stacie Bagley on June 21, 1999. He set their car on fire, with Stacie Bagley’s body in the trunk, after the pair had been shot by another man who already was executed earlier this year.
After the decision on Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge James R. Sweeney II, who presides over the Southern District of Indiana, the defense team vowed to keep fighting by taking the case “to the appellate courts.”
On Tuesday night, Bernard’s attorneys officially notified the Southern District of Indiana that they would challenge Sweeney’s ruling by filing an emergency appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, according to their notice of appeal.
Court records show that Bernard has other outstanding appeals cases in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
One case was put on the D.C. Circuit’s docket on Monday. Bernard’s attorneys argued in a motion that was filed on Tuesday that the appeals court should issue an “emergency stay of execution.”
That case is to appeal a decision made by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on Dec. 6, in which she denied a motion made by Bernard and another man who is set to be executed on Friday. Defense attorneys had argued for a preliminary injunction barring the execution from proceeding.
Chutkan is a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Bernard has another unresolved case, filed on Nov. 19, in the same court, court records show.
The Bagleys were killed in the summer of 1999 after being carjacked by Bernard, Christopher Vialva and three teenagers.
Police said at the time that the Bagleys were youth pastors visiting Killeen for a church revival at a Killeen church.
After carjacking the Bagleys, Christopher Vialva, Bernard and three teenagers put the couple in the trunk of the car and drove for several hours, withdrawing money from ATMs and attempting to pawn Stacie Bagley’s wedding band.
At a remote training area at Fort Hood, police said Vialva shot Todd Bagley in the head and Stacie Bagley in the face.