From NBC News:
Christopher Vialva, 40, was scheduled to be the first Black inmate put to death at the federal prison in Indiana this year.
Sept. 24, 2020, 12:56 PM PDT
By Daniella Silva
A Black man is set to be executed by the federal government Thursday for a crime he committed at age 19, even though his attorney said prosecutors used inflammatory racial stereotypes during the trial 20 years ago to land her client on death row.
The man, Christopher Vialva, 40, is scheduled to be executed Thursday evening at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. He would be the first Black inmate put to death since the Trump administration’s revival of federal executions this year.
Vialva was sentenced to death in the 1999 killing in Texas of Todd and Stacie Bagley, a white couple who were youth ministers. There were 11 white jurors and one Black juror in the 2000 federal trial, said Vialva’s attorney, Susan Otto.
Prosecutors portrayed Vialva “as if he were the leader of a violent and well-organized street gang,” Otto said.
“Of course, in the year 2000, the theme of the super predator, that there were these kids that just marauded through our communities wreaking havoc, was a very powerful and very convincing narrative,” she said.
Otto said there was no evidence that Vialva was a leader or a real member of the so-called 212 PIRU Bloods gang. She said that he and his friends encountered the couple after Vialva was kicked out of his mother’s home and that, having nowhere to go, the group made a plan to rob someone.
“This is a product of a person, a child, with very disorganized thinking, in a full-on panic, surrounded by a bunch of other kids whose ideas are just as bad as his,” she said.
Otto said it was a very convincing narrative to frame to the jury that Vialva and Brandon Bernard, his co-defendant, who is also Black, were part of a violent gang. Bernard was also sentenced to death; his execution date has not been set, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. …
More than 46 percent of the 56 inmates on federal death row are Black. Black people make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population. …
According to the Justice Department, Todd and Stacie Bagley were killed in Fort Hood, Texas, in 1999 after having agreed to give Vialva and two of his friends a ride in their car.
Vialva pulled out a gun and forced the couple into the trunk, and the group of teenagers drove around for a few hours, stopping to try to withdraw money from the Bagleys’ bank account and to pawn Stacie Bagley’s ring, according to the Justice Department. Vialva eventually parked at the site of the Fort Hood military reservation and shot the couple while another man set the car on fire, according to the Justice Department.
The death penalty serves to penalize rational witness-murdering, as in this case. The criminals first committed carjacking, robbery, kidnapping etc. Then they thought about it for a few hours and decided that in order to increase their chances of getting away with their crimes, they also needed to murder their victims.