Feds put first Black inmate to death since execution restart

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Susan Otto

This undated image taken from video provided by attorney Susan Otto shows Christopher Vialva in the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind. Otto, the lawyer for Vialva, the first Black inmate set to die in a series of federal executions this year says race played a central role in landing him on death row for slaying a white couple from Iowa. Otto says just one juror was Black and 11 white at Vialva's 2000 federal trial in western Texas. Vialva's execution is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Susan Otto via AP)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – 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 7 p.m. EDT after receiving a lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

In a last statement, Vialva asked God to comfort the families of the couple he had killed in 1999, saying, “Father … heal their hearts with grace and love.”

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 car.

Vialva's final words were: “I’m ready, Father."

Vialva turned toward his mother behind a glass window in a witness room as the lethal injections began.

“He was looking at me when he died,” his mother, Lisa Brown, told The Associated Press in a text message, confirming she attended the execution.

The execution comes during demonstrations, disappointment, violence and sadness in Louisville, Kentucky, after a grand jury did not charge the officers who shot Breonna Taylor with her death, rather filing lower level felonies for shooting into neighboring homes.