Published on: Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A day before the federal government executed a Texas man for the killing of an Iowa couple when he was 18, celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz pleaded with then-President Donald Trump — a former client — to call the execution off (article available here).

During a Dec. 9, 2020, call to the White House, Dershowitz told Trump that Brandon Bernard, at 40, wasn’t the man he was when Todd and Stacie Bagley were killed in 1999 and that he deserved to have his sentence commuted to life in prison.

Trump sounded sincere when he said he wished he could spare Bernard’s life, but he added apologetically that he’d already promised the victims’ relatives that Bernard would be put to death, Dershowitz said about the 20-minute call.

Bernard was executed the next day.

Secrecy was a hallmark of the 13 federal executions during the last six months of the presidency. Fresh details have emerged since the executions.

The fuller picture reveals that officials cut corners and relied on a pliant Supreme Court to get the executions done, even when some — including Trump himself, in Bernard’s case — agreed that there might be valid reasons not to proceed with them all.

Other newly available information includes an autopsy report for Corey Johnson. It concluded that during his execution, he suffered pulmonary edema, a painful condition akin to drowning.