Despite years of advocacy from activists and celebrities, who pleaded for the court to reexamine the case of Brandon Bernard, the federal government completed the execution of the 40-year-old at 9:27 p.m. on Thursday in Indiana, using lethal injection on the man convicted of murder as a teenager in 1999. 

According to Vice, Bernard died an hour after the Supreme Court denied a stay of his execution, making the decision with a 6-3 ruling. Sonia Sotomayor, who was one of three judges to dissent, said the execution proceeded without giving Bernard another chance to defend himself.

“Today, the Court allows the Federal Government to execute Brandon Bernard, despite Bernard’s troubling allegations that the Government secured his death sentence by withholding exculpatory evidence and knowingly eliciting false testimony against him,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Bernard has never had the opportunity to test the merits of those claims in court. Now he never will.”

As an 18-year-old in 1999, Bernard became involved in the killing of Todd and Stacie Bagley, two youth ministers who were visiting Texas from Iowa, according to The New York Times. The couple had agreed to give a ride to the teenager and a group of his friends. But the young men threatened the Bagleys after getting in the car.

“They pointed a gun at him, forced him and Stacie into the trunk of their car, and drove the couple around for hours while attempting to steal their money and pawn Stacie’s wedding ring,” the Justice Department stated.

Christopher Vialva, who was executed in September, was found guilty of shooting the couple. Bernard was convicted for setting the car on fire after his friend shot the Bagleys. 

In the midst of President Donald Trump's unprecedented push to complete a series of executions during his final days in office, Bernard became the ninth prisoner to be killed by the federal government since July. 

“We'd have to go back to 1896 to find another year where there were 10 or more executions,” Ngozi Ndulue, director of research at the Death Penalty Information Center, told BBC News. 

According to CNN, there hasn't been any state which has held an execution since July, postponing the death penalty for COVID-19-related reasons. But the federal government has still scheduled four more executions which could be carried out before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

"The decision to move forward with all these super spreader events in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed a quarter of a million Americans is historically unprecedented," Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told CNN.