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Death Row Inmate's Last Words: 'I'm Ready, Father'

Christopher Vialva is first Black inmate put to death since federal executions resumed this year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 25, 2020 7:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – A man who killed a religious couple visiting Texas from Iowa was executed Thursday, the first Black inmate put to death as part of the Trump administration's resumption of federal executions after a nearly 20-year pause. Christopher Vialva, 40, was pronounced dead shortly before 7pm ET after receiving a lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., per the AP. In a last statement, Vialva asked God to comfort the families of the young white couple he'd killed in 1999. His final words: "I'm ready, Father." Vialva was the seventh federal execution since July and the second this week. After robbing and locking Todd and Stacie Bagley in the trunk of their car, the then-19-year-old Vialva shot them in the head and burned their bodies in the vehicle. Seconds before Vialva shot them, Stacie Bagley said to him, "Jesus loves you," per court filings.

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Vialva's lawyer, Susan Otto, has said race played a role in landing her client a death sentence. A report this month by the DC-based Death Penalty Information Center said Black people remain overrepresented on death row. Of the 56 inmates currently on federal death row, 26—or nearly 50%—are Black, per recent center data. Otto said one Black juror and 11 white jurors recommended the death sentence in 2000 after prosecutors told them Vialva led a Black gang faction and killed to boost his gang status. That claim, Otto said, was false and only served to conjure up menacing stereotypes. In a video statement released by his lawyers earlier, Vialva expressed regret for what he'd done. "I committed a grave wrong when I was a lost kid and took two precious lives from this world," he said. Todd Bagley's mother, Georgia, released her own statement. "I believe when someone deliberately takes the life of another, they suffer the consequences for their actions," she said.

(Read more execution stories.)

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