Culture News

Meet the Man Kim Kardashian Is Trying to Save from Death Row

Brandon Bernard is scheduled for execution in December, more than 20 years after crimes he committed as an 18 year old.

With all the chaos of 2020, not a lot of attention has been paid to the fact that the federal government has started executing prisoners.

At the state level, of course, the death penalty has never taken a break. Over 1,500 prisoners have been executed in the U.S. since the 1970s. But until 2020, only three prisoners had been executed by the federal government.

Under President George W. Bush, Timothy McVeigh, Juan Raul Garza, and Louis Jones Jr. were executed between 2001 and 2003. Then, for more than 17 years, the federal government got out of the execution business.

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CULTURE

Are We Counting on Kim Kardashian to Fix Criminal Justice?

She's doing great and important work, but what does that say about our justice system?

the Independent

Over the past two years, Kim Kardashian West has made her brand synonymous with criminal justice reform.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that she has subsumed the criminal justice cause into her brand. Her colossal celebrity status has already proven its power by elevating her entire family to the height of reality TV royalty—even providing the springboard for the world's youngest "self-made" billionaire. Combine that with her legal ambitions and husband Kanye West's strange position as the most prominent black celebrity to join the MAGA cause, and she is suddenly positioned perfectly to work as an advocate fighting wrongful convictions and excessive sentencing.


Beginning with convincing Donald Trump to pardon Alice Johnson—who was serving a life sentence for non-violent drug offenses in the 1990s—Kardashian West has had a string of high-profile successes in her advocacy. She was instrumental in getting President Trump to negotiate A$AP Rocky's release from a Swedish prison, and helped secure early release for Momolu Stewart. She is starring in a forthcoming documentary with Oxygen called Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project, has partnered with Lyft in a program to provide former inmates with free rides to job interviews, and according to MiAngel Cody—lead counsel of the Decarceration Project—was involved in freeing 17 inmates from prison over a three month period. So perhaps it's no wonder that Kardashian West was present at the pivotal moment in another high-profile case this week.



At the center of the case, Rodney Reed, a man sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites. He was scheduled to be executed this Wednesday in Texas, despite multiple witnesses coming forward with testimony against the victim's then-fiancé—Jimmy Fennel, a former cop who has since been convicted of rape in a separate case—and despite the fact that no DNA tests were ever performed on the murder weapon. The case has prompted a massive online movement and several petitions for Governor Greg Abbott to grant Reed a stay of execution. Is it a coincidence then, that when that stay of execution finally came through, Reed was meeting with none other than Kim Kardashian West?

Kim Kardashian in prison jumpsuit


It very well might be, but considering the monolithic force that Donald Trump represents within the modern Republican Party—and the amount of sway that Kim and Kanye seem to have over Trump—it's not hard to imagine that a Republican governor could give such a case some extra consideration when Kardashian West is involved. At the very least, the timing is curious, but if we're going to believe that Kim Kardashian West is in some way responsible for the governor's sudden moral turn, we have to consider what that means for our criminal justice system.

Was a petition signed by nearly three million concerned citizens not compelling enough for Governor Abbott to give the evidence another look? As Kim herself put it "you had everyone from Ted Cruz to Shaun King on this case," yet it wasn't until she was meeting with Reed that his stay came through. More to the point, in a state that executes more prisoners than any other, shouldn't the governor give thorough consideration to each of these lives, regardless of public outcry? Shouldn't the entire justice system be willing to reexamine its past decision to eliminate bias and use the best evidentiary standards available today? If we are going to spend billions of dollars each year keeping people locked away from their former lives, shouldn't we be willing to spend the money to ensure that those people are guilty of the crimes they're being punished for?


Kim Kardashian taking selfie with inmates


The work that Kardashian West has been doing for criminal justice is genuinely amazing. For someone who, not that long ago, seemed like a purely vapid symbol of the disease of celebrity worship, she has managed to channel her status into an immense amount of positive change in a very short time. I would never want to say anything to discourage her from continuing—or other celebrities from following suit—but it still feels important to point out that this is not the way criminal justice is supposed to work.


kim kardashian what to say gif


The difference between a person's freedom and imprisonment should not be subject to the attention of someone with 100 million followers on Instagram. Justice should not be as fickle as fashion trends. We can't rely on Gigi Hadid to get woke so we can end the carceral state. I don't have a better solution. I don't have the Kardashian-level status to even propose one seriously. I just think it's important for us to all take a moment, before we go back to praising Kim's work, to just acknowledge that this is f*cked up.

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Netflix's "Ted Bundy Tapes" Leaves Viewers Scared and Confused

The docuseries avoids possible pitfalls of covering America's best known serial killer by deconstructing the culture, politics, and female "groupies" that cultivated the Bundy Effect™.

The Daily World

The most surprising takeaway from Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is how many women still find America's favorite murderer attractive.

Netflix released its latest true crime docuseries on Thursday, January 24: the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution in Florida. The series' main draw is Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth's previously unreleased interviews with Bundy, which were conducted while he was on death row in 1980. The journalists recall their interactions with the sexually sadistic killer during their 150 hours of interviewing him for their 1989 book. "Ted stands out because he was quite an enigma: clean-cut, articulate, very intelligent, just a handsome, young, mild-mannered law student," Michaud says. "He didn't look like anybody's notion of someone who would tear apart young girls."

The Ted Bundy Tapes is a self-aware docuseries. Joe Berlinger is clearly conscious of the fact that Bundy is probably the most well-known and exhaustively covered subject in the true crime genre. The basics of the Ted Bundy cautionary tale are now almost cliche: the least likely suspects can turn out to be the worst monsters. As Berlinger noted, "He taps into our most primal fear: That you don't know, and can't trust, the person sleeping next to you. People want to think those who do evil are easily identifiable. Bundy tells us that those who do evil are those who often people we know and trust the most." So in addition to being well-produced, the angle of the four episodes is to deconstruct that signature Bundy Effect™ that altered 80s media, the criminal investigation, and the American psyche.

When a 22-year-old named Lynda Ann Healy disappeared in 1974, the term "serial killer" didn't exist in the American vernacular. By the time two college students were murdered in Florida State University's Chi Omega sorority house in 1978, criminal investigators had identified a pattern to the string of brutal murders that had spanned over seven states. The Ted Bundy Tapes combines archival news footage and interviews with investigators to convey the mass fear that disrupted the 1970s' wave of female empowerment and autonomy. At the same time, class mobility and Republican politics created a decade that was "perfect for [Bundy] because he [didn't] have to be real," as Berlinger pointed out.

Park Record


Despite claiming to be innocent on Death Row, Bundy finally confessed to Michaud and Aynesworth in their exclusive audio recordings. After listening to the excerpts, the erratic confession could've been another one of Bundy's manic, illogical plans to misdirect attention (and postpone execution) by focusing on his 30 victims. He begins the interviews with the same egomaniacal enthusiasm that characterized his court appearance and press conferences: "It is a little after nine o'clock in the evening. My name is Ted Bundy. I've never spoken to anybody about this. I am looking for an opportunity to tell the story as best I can. I'm not an animal and I'm not crazy. I don't have a split personality. I mean, I'm just a normal individual."

But there's another bizarre element to the Bundy Effect™ that's been repeated in cases like the recent family murderer, Chris Watts. Some women who were well aware of Bundy's homicidal and necrophilic urges still swooned over the man. The Ted Bundy Tapes also touches on the strange phenomenon of "serial killer groupies," including Bundy's wife, Carol Ann Boone. Footage of the killer proposing to her while she was testifying at his trial demonstrates her disturbing devotion, which she later proved by "somehow" having sex with Bundy during a prison visit and later giving birth to their daughter. Aside from calling him "kind, warm, and patient," Boone also said in archival footage, "Let me put it this way, I don't think that Ted belongs in jail. I don't think they had reason to charge Ted Bundy with murder."

The Telegraph

In fact, while Netflix summed up the public's 30-year-long fascination with Bundy in a tweet describing him as "charming, good-looking, and one of the most dangerous serial killers that ever existed in America," the most disturbing effect of the docuseries may be a resurgence in women who find him appealing. After its release, "Ted Bundy" became a trending topic on Twitter, with users debating the serial killer's attractiveness. One user called him "the most beautiful psychopath in the world," while another said he looked like "the Joker minus the makeup."



With Zac Efron set to inhabit Bundy in the upcoming film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, the world might have to confront the weird equation of 70s beauty standards and institutional failures that made Ted Bundy a criminal celebrity.

Zac Efron (Left) and Ted Bundy (Right)People


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Saudi Arabia, the longtime trusted Middle Eastern oil supplier political ally of the Western world, is gearing up to crucify a now 21-year-old political protester, who was convicted of his supposed crimes when he was just 17.

Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr has been sentenced to execution by beheading, with the added punishment of crucifixion—which means he will be led to a public square, have his head chopped off in front of a crowd of cheering onlookers, and then have his dead body hung up in public, to serve as a warning to others.

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So what was the unspeakable crime that the teen committed, leading to the decision that just beheading him alone wasn't punishment enough?

Well, apparently, al-Nimr, who is the nephew of the outspoken Saudi state executed shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was found guilty shortly after the Arab Spring uprisings, of "encouraging pro-democracy protests using a Blackberry."

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A Blackberry?!! A Blackberry?!!!!!!! Off with this kid's head!

The extent of al-Nimr's purported crimes is unknown—as is whether he is in fact guilty of anything at all—because, in true Saudi fashion, the student was convicted and sentenced without any form of due process whatsoever.

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In fact, according to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, al-Nimr was never even afforded the services of an attorney, was tortured into giving a false confession, and had a supposed appeal against his sentence conducted in secret, without his knowledge, or without anybody there to actually represent his interests.

"Saudi Arabia may so far this year have executed at least 134 people, which already represents 44 more than the total for the whole of last year," United Nations Human Rights experts wrote in a press release.

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"Such a surge in executions in the country makes Saudi Arabia a sad exception in a world where states are increasingly moving away from the death penalty."

The situation is made all the more insane—and the United Nations' statement all the more ridiculous and pointless than even the usual run-of-the-mill United Nations' inane bullshit—by the fact that Saudi Arabia was recently elected chair of the UN's Human Rights Council.

We shit you not.

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Adding yet further to the farce, Western heads of parliament occasionally pretend to give a shit about Saudi Arabia's disgusting and deplorable disregard for even the most basic of human rights, when forced to—all while continuing to toady up to the barbarians on a daily basis.

The death of King Abdullah back in January prompted an absolutely sickening slew of condolence messages from European and U.S. politicians and dignitaries, from both sides of the political spectrum.

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Including:

John Kerry:

King Abdullah was a man of wisdom & vision. US has lost a friend & Kingdom of #SaudiArabia, Middle East, and world has lost a revered leader

John McCain:

I extend my deepest condolences to ppl of #SaudiArabia on passing of King Abdullah. My stmt: http://t.co/gcbHX4NJAO #KSA

Tony Blair:

He was loved by his people and will be deeply missed.

President Obama:

It is with deep respect that I express my personal condolences and the sympathies of the American people to the family of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and to the people of Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah's life spanned from before the birth of modern Saudi Arabia through its emergence as a critical force within the global economy and a leader among Arab and Islamic nations. He took bold steps in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative, an endeavor that will outlive him as an enduring contribution to the search for peace in the region. At home, King Abdullah's vision was dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world.
As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah's perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship. As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions. One of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond. The closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah's legacy.
May God grant him peace.

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Indeed, may God grant peace to the tyrant who oversaw a murderous, repressive regime where public beheadings, executions by hanging, flogging and torture are carried out routinely.

Where all and any forms of social dissent are brutally suppressed by arrests, prosecutions, prison and death sentences.

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Where chopping off hands and feet for theft, public floggings for “socially unacceptable behavior", stoning people to death for adultery, beheading drug users and executing women for “witchcraft" are commonplace.

Where women have zero rights, are forbidden from mixing with men that are not their immediate relatives and can be stoned to death for doing so—on charges of prostitution and adultery, are forbidden to go out in public without a male guardian (father, brother, husband or adult age son), are forbidden from traveling, marrying, working, undergoing medical procedures, or being educated without the permission of their male guardian, forbidden from driving, forbidden from participating in and watching sports in public, forbidden from trying on clothes in changing rooms.

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Where 16 people were beheaded in the month of January 2015 alone, 83 people in the 12 months of 2014.

Where a blogger, Raif Badawi, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, purely for posting comments online that were deemed to be anti-monarchy.

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May God grant him peace indeed.

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, al-Nimr's family members and friends are beside themselves with worry, as his execution could occur at any moment, with zero notice or warning—they are also concerned for the boy's mental state as he remains in solitary confinement awaiting his death.

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To read more about Saudi Arabia's nauseating human right's abuses, and to find out how to petition on behalf of Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr and Raif Badawi, go to Amnesty International's website.

For more entertainment, world, music and pop culture updates and news, follow Max Page on Twitter

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, the only woman on Georgia's death row, is scheduled to be executed next week, leaving time for tabloids to ridicule her choice for a hardy last meal.

Gissendaner, 46, was sentenced for planning the death of her husband Doug, which was carried out by her lover, Gregory Owen in 1997. Owen Testified against Glissendaner and will be eligible for parole in eight years.

Gissendaner's execution has been postponed twice, once due to freezing weather and more recently because of a problem with the execution drug. The second postponement was announced at the last minute, after Gissendaner had recorded a statement addressed to her children, telling them to stay strong.

Setting aside all issues of morality and justice, one tabloid in particular is focusing on Gissendaner's last meal, served in March before the last minute reprieve.

At the time the meal was described as follows:

Gissendaner had feasted on a massive last meal of two Burger King Whoppers, two large portions of fries, cornbread, a fatty salad, popcorn and cherry-vanilla ice cream.

It was further described as a 'whopping, 3.400-calorie last meal,' along with a picture of Gissendaner eating a normal prison meal, to underscore the depiction of the woman as a greedy pig.

Today, as a new execution date is set for September 29, the same tabloid reminds us of that last meal, this time upgrading the 'fatty salad' to

a salad drenched in buttermilk

Okay, got it! She's just a glutton who doesn't deserve to live!

However, thanks to more respectable journalism, we are able to learn more about this woman than her caloric intake.

Gissendaner will be the first woman executed by the state of Georgia in 70 years. Her lawyers filed a lawsuit in March saying the period of uncertainty after her execution was postponed amounted to 'unconstitutional torment and uncertainty.' A judge dismissed that lawsuit but they have asked him to reconsider.

Two of Gissendaner's three children have forgiven her and have asked that her life be spared.

Gissendaner's case drew national attention in March when hundreds of clergy made a plea for clemency, emphasizing that she had graduated from a theology program and was a model prisoner.

In her final statement, recorded two hours before her expected execution six months ago, Glissendaner said:

I just want to tell my kids that I love them and I'm proud of them and no matter what happens tonight, love does beat out hate. You keep strong and keep your heads up. I love you

On the same night, she wrote a letter to her fellow inmates, urging them not to worry about her, but to be encouraged.

Speaking to a professor of religion who got to know her in prison,  Glissendaner said:

The theology program has shown me that hope is still alive and that, despite a gate or a guillotine hovering over my head, I still possess the ability to prove that I am human.

According to NBC news, Georgia uses pentobarbital in a one-drug protocol for executions. An FDA-approved form of that drug is no longer available, so the state has it compounded by specialty pharmacies — a practice that death-penalty opponents say is unreliable.

 

Joseph Oberhansley will go on trial in Indiana later this year for stabbing his ex-girlfriend, Tammy Jo Blanton, to death, then eating her lungs, brain and heart—a crime he confessed to last year.

However, the prosecution contends that the 34-year-old also raped her, as there were significant signs indicating sexual trauma—and, here is where Oberhansley is putting his foot down—insisting that he’s way too good looking to have to force himself on anybody.

According to court documents, during his police interview, Oberhansley admitted to breaking in to Blanton’s home, and, “killing her with a knife, then using an electric jigsaw to cut open her skull before eating parts of her brain, heart and a lung.”

The 46-year-old suffered fatal injuries to her head, neck and torso. Her skull had been crushed, and tissue from her body was found in a garbage can. A plate and cooking utensils—covered in blood and bone—were also found near the body.

Joseph Oberhansley and Tammy Jo Blanton

As Popdust previously reported, Oberhansley was still inside the property at the time Blanton’s remains were discovered and had to be restrained by officers. He was subsequently charged with murder, dismemberment and burglary, and is now facing the death penalty.

Homicide? Yes! Cannibalism? You betcha! But, rape? Rape?!!! How VERY dare you?!!!

Oberhanlsey is taking exception to the highly offensive charge, testifying in court to being a “righteous” man, who is “too handsome” to commit rape.

“I’ve never seen such bullshit!" Oberhansley yelled when the judge read out the rape statue last week. "Excuse my language. They keep falsifying shit!"

He also spent a portion of his testimony talking about how he is Lance Armstrong, "the man who landed on the moon" (presumably not on steroids)—so, it’s clear that in addition to his other hobbies, Oberhansley enjoys a good non-sequitur.

Since his arrest in September, Oberhansley has been held in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement within a maximum security cell—Judge Carmichael denied the defense motion to move Oberhansley into general population—which is probably a smart move, as going by his past history, dude’s clearly got a few unresolved anger issues—to say the least.

In 1998, Oberhansley fatally shot his 17-year-old girlfriend, Sabrina Elder, who'd recently given birth to their son. He was convicted of manslaughter, and later attempted to take his own life.

He was released from jail in 2012 however, and was still on parole at the time of Blanton's murder—in addition to being out on bail following two other incidents he's been charged with—a cross-state police car chase, and allegedly nearly choking a man to death during an argument.

Meanwhile, towards the end of last week's hearing, Oberhansley made it clear how he feels about this damn bullshit court penal system malarky....

“This whole thing is completely wrong. It’s preposterous,” he yelled at the judge.

Trial date has been set for August 2.