First Black inmate put to death since resumption of federal death penalty
An inmate was put to death by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Ind., on Thursday, the first Black man who has died by execution since the resumption of the federal death penalty.
Christopher Vialva, 40, was convicted for killing a religious couple 21 years ago while they were visiting the state of Texas from Iowa, according to The Associated Press.
Vialva was imprisoned in 1999 after reportedly burning the couple in the trunk of their car, according to the wire service.
“I believe when someone deliberately takes the life of another, they suffer the consequences for their actions,” the mother of one of the victims wrote in a statement released after the execution.
Vialva’s death was the seventh federal execution since July and the second this week. The Supreme Court cleared the way for federal executions to resume in April, after a 17-year break from capital punishment.
Five of the first six were white, which some critics argue was a political tactic to prevent a national uproar. The sixth was Navajo Native American.
Vialva’s lawyer, Susan Otto, said her client’s race played a factor in his placement on death row.
“It played right into the narrative that he was a dangerous Black thug who killed these lovely white people. And they were lovely,” Otto said in a recent phone interview.
A recent report by the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center said Black people are overrepresented on death rows, adding that Black people who kill white people are more likely to be sentenced to death than white people who kill Black people.
Nearly 50 percent of inmates currently on death row are Black despite making up only 13 percent of the population, according to the AP, citing Center data updated Wednesday.
Vialva’s execution comes as protests and demonstrations erupted across the country Wednesday after a grand jury did not bring any charges against the three police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Instead, the jury announced three lesser counts of of wanton endangerment against Louisville police officer Brett Hankison.
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