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Old 09-24-2020, 05:46 AM
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voiceofreason voiceofreason is offline
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Default Tears, excuses flow for 2 niggers to be executed 1999 white couple burned to death Fort Hood, TX


Lawyer: Racial Bias Is Clear In Case Of Black Inmate Set To Die For Crimes Committed In Texas As A Teen
September 24, 2020 at 6:17 am

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The U.S. government is set to execute a now 40 year old Black man for a crime he committed in Texas when he was 19-years-old. But the lawyer for Christopher Vialva, who is the first Black inmate scheduled to die this year as part of the Trump administration’s resumption of federal executions, says race played a central role in landing her client on death row.

One Black juror and 11 white jurors heard the 2000 case in Texas against Vialva, who was sent to death row for slaying a young white Iowa couple and burning them in the trunk of their car. Prosecutors portrayed the then-teenager as the leader of a Black street-gang faction and alleged he killed the deeply religious husband and wife, Todd and Stacie Bagley, to boost his status within the gang, attorney Susan Otto said.

But Otto contends there was no evidence Vialva, scheduled to be put to death Thursday, was even a full-fledged member — let alone a leader — of the 212 PIRU Bloods gang in his Killeen, Texas hometown. She said the false claim only served to conjure up menacing stereotypes to prejudice the nearly all-white jury.

“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. She added: “Race was a very strong component of this case.”

Questions about racial bias in the criminal justice system have been front and center since protests erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on the handcuffed Black man’s neck for several minutes.

The Trump administration restarted federal executions this year after a 17-year pause, executing six inmates since July at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana — the most recent on Tuesday. Five of the first six were white, a move critics argue was a political calculation to avoid uproar. The sixth was Navajo.

A report this month by the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center said Black people remain overrepresented on death rows and that Black people who kill white people are far more likely to be sentenced to death than white people who kill Black people.

The focus of the report was on state death penalty cases, but the center’s director, Robert Dunham, said Wednesday there was ample proof the same problems exist at the federal level.

“The racial issues are the same as they are in state courts,” he said. “The federal system is not the gold standard for fair processes.”

Of the 56 inmates currently on federal death row, 26 — or nearly 50% — are Black, according to center data updated Wednesday; 22, or nearly 40%, are white and seven, around 12% were Latino. There is one Asian on federal death row. Black people make up only about 13% of the population.

Dunham says poor record keeping on federal and state death penalty cases makes it difficult to fully assess how much of role race plays. Higher numbers of homicides in some minority areas, he said, also complicates analyses of death row disparities.

But he said studies have consistently demonstrated that race is a factor — to the determinant of Black defendants.

Vialva’s lawyers neither dispute the brutality of the crime nor his involvement in it. The crime was deemed a federal crime, not a state one, because the killings happened on a secluded part of the Fort Hood Army post.

According to court filings, the Bagleys were on their way home from a Sunday worship service during a visit to Texas when Vialva and his teenage accomplices asked them for a lift after they stopped at a convenience store — planning all along to rob the couple. After the Bagleys agreed and began driving away, Vialva pulled out a gun and told the couple: “Plans have changed.”

After stealing their money, jewelry and ATM card, the teens locked the Bagley’s in the trunk of their car as they drove around for hours trying to withdraw money from ATMs and seeking to pawn Stacie Bagley’s wedding ring. The Bagleys pleaded for their lives from the trunk.

The teens eventually pulled to the side of the road and poured lighter fluid inside the car. As they did, the Bagleys sang “Jesus loves us” in the trunk. Vialva, the oldest of the group, donned a ski-mask, opened the trunk and shot the Bagleys in the head. Stacie Bagley, prosecutors said at trial, was still alive as flames engulfed the car.

Vialva’s lawyers say the jury’s racial composition and prosecutors’ stress on alleged gang ties meant jurors were likely less open to mitigating factors, including Vialva’s difficult upbringing as a biracial child who faced racism in his own family. They say those factors should have led jurors to recommend a life sentence rather than death.

The overrepresentation of white people throughout the federal justice system, from judges to prosecutors, can also result in less empathy for Black defendants, Dunham said, as can the system of selecting Black jurors.

Jury pools in federal death-penalty cases involving Black defendants from inner cities are drawn from entire judicial districts, which span multiple counties that are often predominantly white. That, Dunham said, makes it less likely that the racial makeup of a jury will reflect a Black defendant’s community.

The U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 2017 sharply criticized any bids to hint that someone’s race or cultural background might mean that are prone to violence. Vialva’s lawyers say prosecutors did that by repeatedly referring to his supposed gang membership.

“The law punishes people for what they do, not who they are,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in ordering a new trial for Duane Buck, who had been sentence to death in a Texas double slaying after an expert called by his own lawyer said he was more likely to be dangerous because he was Black.

Roberts added that stereotyping Black people as more prone to violence is a “particularly noxious strain of racial prejudice.”

Otto said Vialva’s lawyers during the trial, the sentencing phase and in an initial appeal didn’t appear to raise objections about the racial composition of the jury or the characterization of Vialva as a Black gang leader. That effectively barred subsequent lawyers from raising the issue of racial bias in higher court appeals.

His current legal team has instead stressed Vialva’s level of mental development at the time of the killings. Otto said that Vialva was, developmentally, three or four years younger than his 19 years at the time of the killings and so for practical purposes was a juvenile at the time.

Otto says U.S. law doesn’t allow for judges to deem someone facing a possible death sentence to be technically a juvenile and therefore ineligible for the death penalty, something she says should change.


Reduce Brandon Bernard sentence and get him off death row


Killeen men’s appeal in 1999 murder case denied

Two Killeen men will remain on death row after their latest appeal was denied by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to court documents.

Brandon Bernard and Christopher Vialva were convicted of multiple charges and sentenced to death in 2000 following the June 1999 Fort Hood murders of Todd and Stacie Bagley, youth ministers from Iowa.

The Bagleys were visiting Killeen for a church revival when Bernard, Vialva, and three other teens carjacked the married couple and forced them into the trunk of the car. The teens drove the car for hours as the couple made pleas for their lives from the trunk. The teens attempted to use the couple’s debit and credit cards and pawn belongings, according to court documents. The group then drove to the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, where Vialva shot the couple one time each. The gunshot killed Todd Bagley. His wife survived the gunshot, but reportedly died of smoke inhalation after Bernard set the car on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

The teens then attempted to leave the scene, but their car got stuck in a muddy ditch and they were found by emergency personnel responding to reports of the fire.

Bernard and Vialva were each charged with carjacking and aiding and abetting in the same offense, conspiracy to commit murder, and the murders of Todd and Stacie Bagley, as well as aiding and abetting in the murders. The other teens were given shorter sentences for their involvement.

The men filed appeals in 2002, citing multiple claims of improper trial proceedings, including wrongful dismissal of a juror and alleged third-party communication with jurors.

However, each claim was addressed and found to be insubstantial. Those appeals were denied and the sentences for both men upheld.

Bernard and Vialva each filed appeals again in late 2017 seeking relief from judgment, alleging flaws in the integrity of the trial proceedings. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel denied the appeals in February 2018. Both men then submitted appeals to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that Judge Walter Smith, who oversaw the initial trials, was unfit to do so because of “impairments,” according to court documents filed Sept. 14.

In the recent allegations, the two cited a 2014 judicial misconduct investigation involving reports that Judge Smith “engaged in abusive sexual conduct” with a deputy clerk in 1998. Smith resigned in 2016 amid the investigation, ending his 32-year career.

The Fifth Circuit ruled that the cited investigation was unrelated and had no bearing on the murder trial, and the appeal was denied.

“Judge Smith’s unrelated misconduct does not constitute a defect in the integrity of Bernard’s and Vialva’s hearing proceedings,” the court’s decision stated. “To hold otherwise would implicate every one of Judge Smith’s decisions for an undetermined period of time.”

Bernard and Vialva will both continue to serve life sentences and await the death penalty for their charges.

Both stand to be executed in the same chamber as Timothy McVeigh at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., but no execution date has been set.

Tony Sparks, who was 16 at the time of the crime, participated in the carjacking, but was taken home before the murders. He was initially given a sentence of life in prison, but it was shortened in March. Sparks will now serve 420 months in prison, followed by a five-year supervised release term. He has already served 220 months.

Terry Terrell Brown and Christopher Michael Lewis, both 17 at the time, will soon reach the end of their respective 20-year prison terms.

Gregory Hardin Lynch, 15 at the time, served a five-year sentence for his part in providing the weapon used in the murders.
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