Skip to content

Add Brandon Bernard’s Execution To The List of Famous Death Penalty Cases

These famous death penalty cases are part of a broader issue that has been debated for centuries, and there are many famous cases where the state executed people, some with more or less controversy. This article reviews some of these cases to give you a sense of what each side might be thinking when deciding whether they believe in capital punishment or not.

The death penalty is a controversial topic that continues to spark debate. This post will discuss famous cases and their outcomes and the limitations of capital punishment, and its place in society today.

Death penalty famous cases closeup of man's hands handcuffed behind bars

What are Recent Famous Death Penalty Cases?

The three most recent notable executions include Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, James Holmes, and Timothy McVeigh.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar was convicted for his involvement in the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, 2013, where he killed 3 people (including an 8-year old boy) and injured 264 others.

James Holmes

James was convicted for killing 12 moviegoers at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora Colorado on July 20th, 2012.

Timothy McVeigh

Timothy was found guilty of detonating a truck bomb outside Oklahoma City federal building on April April 19, 1995.

back view american prisoner orange clothes

Some other examples of famous death penalty cases are:

Joseph Smith Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr., convicted of killing three people in front of their children, was sentenced to death on 6 May 1994. He was executed on 4 April 1995.

Michael Rafferty

Michael Rafferty, convicted of kidnapping and murdering eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford in Woodstock, Ontario, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole eligibility for 25 years on 29 October 2009.

Terri Lynn Rote

Terri Lynn Rote, convicted of shooting two Iowa police officers who had stopped her car because she had earlier flashed her lights at them then sped away while they were trying to pull her over, was sentenced to death on 2 November 2017.

What Famous Death Penalty Cases Ended in Acquital?

The death penalty is contentious. It has been used to argue for victims’ rights and an individual’s right to life.

There are many famous cases in history where the death penalty was controversial, including:

• The trial of George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin in self-defense;

• The trial of Casey Anthony for killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee;

• The trials of OJ Simpson for murdering his wife and Ronald Goldman.

These cases have caused controversy about whether or not the death penalty should be abolished because it can be seen as discriminatory against poor people and minority races. However, some argue that capital punishment is necessary to deter crime because criminals know they will get caught if they commit it.

How Many Countries Deploy Capital Punishment?

Many people are executed as a punishment for their crimes every day, while many are sentenced to death. Some spend years in prison on death row, waiting for their execution without knowing when their life would end.

Over 70% of countries have abolished capital punishment as it is the cruelest, inhuman, and undignified way of punishment. However, many countries still have the death penalty in their constitution. The US is one of these countries where capital punishment is a legal penalty under the criminal justice system, as President Trump restarted it after a 17-year pause.

What Happend with The Brandon Bernard Execution?

On November 10, the US federal government executed Brandon Bernard, making him the 9th person to be executed since July. Bernard, a Texas street gang member, was just 18 when imprisoned in 1999 for slaying Stacie and Todd Bagley in Texas. He was one of five men who killed the couple by shooting them in the heads after carnapping. Brandon was convicted for burning their car after his group member killed the couple.

Robert Owen, Bernard’s defense attorney, made every attempt to change his execution order into a life sentence. Owen also sent a clemency petition to President Trump. According to the petition, Brandon was a low-ranking gang member, and he burnt the car after Bagleys were dead.

Robert said that Bernard’s execution order should be replaced with a life sentence as he maintained a good prison record. Not only his attorney, Senators Richard Durbin, and Cory Brooker also appealed for leniency.

Despite the clemency request from legal experts and activists, 40-year-old Bernard was put to death on Thursday night by lethal injection. The execution of the youngest person in the country during the last 70 years attracted celebrities, legal experts, and anti-death penalty activists across America. Bernard’s defense attorney, Robert Owen, called his execution “a stain on America’s  criminal justice system.”  

Ashley Kincaid, an activist, organized a virtual conference on December 10 to raise a voice against Bernard’s capital punishment. She also requested the Americans to become her voice against the death penalty in the United States.

Why Should Capital Punishment Be Abolished?

According to activists, Capital punishment should be abolished as it is inhuman and against human rights. It causes severe suffering and torture to the prisoners. Lethal injections, which are used to kill convicts, have the highest rate of error.

Capital punishment is discriminatory and does not offer blind justice. According to Mental Health America, almost 5-10% of prisoners waiting for execution have mental illnesses.

Apart from mental health, 40% of convicts waiting for execution are Black, even though Blacks make only 13% US. According to the United Nations, poor people are extremely affected by Capital punishment as they can not afford representation to defend themselves.


Bernard’s execution arose a wave of anger among the Americans. They also called for criminal justice reforms by terminating Capital punishment, as many advanced countries did. Consider Canada’s example; the murder rate dropped by 44% since the country stopped the execution. 

It does not mean that just the abolition of the capital penalty will reduce America’s crime rate. It also needs reforms in the criminal justice system to ensure non-discriminatory justice in the country.

Viable Outreach | Activism for the 99%