Death row inmate Christopher Vialva was executed Thursday night, making him the first Black person to be executed by the Trump administration as well as the first man in 70 years to be executed for crimes committed as a teenager. Vialva, 40, was convicted in 2000 of killing youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley during a carjacking in Texas when he was just 19 years old in 1999.
Vialva’s lawyer questioned whether the execution truly served justice since she claimed he was the victim of a racist trial. Susan Otto, a federal defender, said Vialva was portrayed as a street gang leader when there was no evidence of that being true.
“Tonight, the federal government took the life of a man for a crime he committed 20 years ago — before he was old enough to manage his trauma or exercise the judgment I watched him develop,” Otto said in a brief statement provided by the ACLU. “Given everything we know about the vast failings of the criminal legal system — poor lawyering, racism, and imbalances of power — we must ask ourselves: Is this justice? This execution has shaken my faith that the federal justice system is worthy of that name.”
The ACLU also provided Vialva’s final words that were given to Otto before his execution Thursday night. He offered and apology to the family of his victims and asked for their forgiveness.
“I have been incarcerated for over 20 years, but those years were not idle time. I have been on a journey of growth and repentance. On that journey, I have often thought of the Bagleys. I know they were special people and I deeply regret my actions. I took your loved ones away from you. Their words are what started me on a path to faith. At the end of the path I found salvation, and the Messiah has now guided my life for over a decade. I have the Bagleys to thank for that. The Bagleys are heroes, and we should rejoice in their heroism. They lived their faith and their faith was an inspiration,” Vialva said.
“To the family of the Bagleys: I apologize for taking two shining lights away from you. I know you love them dearly, and you may feel that what I did was unforgivable. I wouldn’t dare ask for forgiveness. That is too big of a request. However, I am sorry nonetheless, and if ending my life brings you peace then I am glad to end it. I pray the Father blesses your family with His Shalom,” he concluded with.
Vialvo is the seventh inmate executed by the federal government this year. There had been a 17-year pause in executions before U.S. Attorney General William Barr reinstated them last year.
The ACLU provided data showing that there is a good chance that the resumption of federal executions contributed to, if not caused a spike in coronavirus infections, outbreaks and deaths.
Exonerated! Falsely Accused Black Folks Freed From Prison
1. Herbert Alford
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A Michigan man who spent nearly five years in custody is suing Hertz for failing to produce in a timely manner a receipt that would have proved his innocence long before he was convicted of a 2011 murder. https://t.co/kZaI5tdOv4— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 12, 2021
2. Walter Forbes
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“I don’t hold contempt for the people who lied to convict me ... The reason is selfish: I wasn’t going to allow them to destroy me," said Walter Forbes, freed and exonerated last week after 37 years with the help of @UofMInnocence. https://t.co/WfanIitchU— The Innocence Project (@innocence) December 14, 2020
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An innocent Philadelphia man has been freed after spending 19 years in prison because two police officers wrongly claimed he’d raped a woman and then shot at them, when he’d in fact saved her from a different man .Attorneys for Termaine Joseph Hicks claim cops made up the story . pic.twitter.com/FJp5DQUMoQ— HJ (Hank) Ellison (@hjtherealj) December 18, 2020
4. Clifford Williams, Nathan Myers
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After a combined 86 years incarcerated for a crime they did not commit, Clifford Williams Jr. and his nephew, Nathan Myers, were exonerated and released last week! Mr. Myers was 18 when he was arrested and is now 61. Mr. Williams was 33 and is now 76. https://t.co/EH2qPCspEj— Equal Justice Initiative (@eji_org) April 5, 2019
5. Calvin BrightSource:WUSA9 5 of 15
6. Kevin Baker, Sean Washington
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Kevin Baker and Sean Washington received life terms in 1996 that were overturned on appeal in December https://t.co/MSWoxkwPzi— Courier-Post (@cpsj) February 4, 2020
7. Theophalis Wilson
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Theophalis Wilson was 17-years-old when he was falsely accused of a triple murder in Philadelphia and sentenced to life in prison. Now, 28 years later, he finally has his freedom. He spoke with @KeithJones https://t.co/mVDISp68hy pic.twitter.com/RQ2pEdZBfM— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) January 22, 2020
8. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart
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And they are out: Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart walk out of the Baltimore city courthouse after 36 yrs for a crime they didn’t do: pic.twitter.com/5UDGWMZmOB— Tom Jackman (@TomJackmanWP) November 25, 2019
9. Deandre Charles9 of 15
10. Exonerated Five - Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise10 of 15
11. Anthony Ray Hinton
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Name: Anthony Ray Hinton, who was on Alabama’s Death Row for nearly 30 years for a murder he didn’t commit. In 2018, he wrote about his experience in the NYT bestseller, The Sun Does Shine.— City of Birmingham (@cityofbhamal) October 4, 2019
Occupation: Works in community education with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery pic.twitter.com/EwiaJueimb
12. Lamar Johnson12 of 15
13. Wilbert Jones
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Louisiana man freed from prison after serving 43 years for a crime he did not commit. Wilbert Jones was arrested in 1971 at the age of 19 and convicted of rape in 1974. A judge overturned his conviction weeks ago. He still had to pay $2,000 bail before becoming a free man today. pic.twitter.com/LYV4gbTPOf— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) November 15, 2017
14. Xavier DavisSource:Courtesy of Xavier Davis 14 of 15
15. Huwe Burton
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2,372nd Exon: Huwe Burton was convicted in 1991 for stabbing his mother to death when he was 16. He was exonerated on Jan 24th after an investigation showed that his confession was coerced and that his mother's real killer was likely a downstairs neighbor. https://t.co/TM3f76moQ5 pic.twitter.com/rsU1NlPr2y— Exoneration Registry (@exonerationlist) February 4, 2019
Christopher Vialva: Read The Final Words From First Black Person Executed By Trump’s Administration was originally published on newsone.com