Celebrities have a lot of sway. They are frequently on television, and many of them have hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of followers on social media. In Kim Kardashian’s case, more than 67 million followers. Over the years, Kardashian has used her platform to advocate for criminal justice reform generally, as well as speaking out about specific injustices she sees in the system.
Kardashian’s most recent efforts relate to the scheduled execution of Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old man who the government plans to execute on December 10, 2020. Bernard was arrested and charged with murder in what the prosecution described as a gang-related killing. Evidently, back in 1999, when Bernard was just 18 years old, he and several of his associates approached a vehicle with a couple inside. One of Bernard’s associates shot at the couple inside the car, and then Bernard lit the car on fire. One of the victims died of a gunshot wound and the other of smoke inhalation. Bernard was convicted in a Texas court and sentenced to die. He exhausted his appeals and post-conviction remedies, and is scheduled to be executed this month. According to Bernard, he lit the car on fire when his co-defendant held a gun to his head. As such, it was questionable to what extent he was involved.
Upon hearing about the case, Kardashian reached out to her millions of Twitter followers, asking them to sign a petition urging President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison. Kardashian explained in a November 29th tweet, “while Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now.” She went on to explain that the crime was horrible, but that Bernard’s trial attorney failed to present important mitigating information that may have impacted the jury’s decision to render a death sentence. For example, the jury never heard that Bernard grew up in an abusive home, that his father left him to fend for himself on the streets, and that he was remorseful for his role in the killings. Kardashian also pointed out that the jury did not hear evidence regarding how Bernard’s brain was still developing when he participated in the crime.
And she’s right – the jury never heard character evidence regarding Bernard, likely raising possible Ineffective Assistance of Counsel claims. Since his conviction, six jurors who ruled for the death penalty in Bernard’s case have come out with statements. Each of the jurors details they would not have ruled for a death penalty had they heard of the character evidence. Even more importantly is that the prosecutor in the case now wishes to undue the death penalty conviction in this case.
Kardashian’s efforts—successful or not—deserve applause. She has identified an issue of societal importance and used her platform as a celebrity to advocate for meaningful change.
Contact a California Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help with Your Appeal of Post-Conviction Relief
If you were convicted of a serious crime and were sentenced to death, a life sentence, or an effective life sentence, there are ways to challenge both convictions and sentences, even if you’ve exhausted your state appellate and post-conviction remedies. Barhoma Law, P.C. outlines options available to those with life without the possibility of parole sentences here. Barhoma Law, P.C. is a California post-conviction firm dedicated to helping his clients in their post-conviction matters. Barhoma Law, P.C. has extensive experience handling a wide range of appellate and post-conviction matters in a variety of serious crimes, including California capital offenses. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call 213-800-7664 today.