Set to become 7th executed by U.S. this year: Christopher Vialva Biography, Wikipedia
Christopher Vialva, 40, is scheduled to be put to death at 6 p.m. at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., for killing Todd Bagley in 1999 near the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. He also was convicted of killing Todd Bagley’s wife, Stacie Bagley, and burning their bodies in their vehicle.
Vialva’s lawyers appealed to the Court of Cassation, saying that during her first trial she received an ineffective lawyer because her lawyers did not provide evidence that her 19-year-old age at which the crime was committed made her less guilty for the murders.
They further allege that the trial lawyers failed to provide evidence that Vialva had organic brain damage and untreated bipolar disorder, or that “dysfunctional upbringing [and] parental neglect.” Moreover, they say there was a serious conflict of interest.
“If the jury had heard of the extensive mitigation evidence in favor of sparing Christopher’s life, he probably wouldn’t have been executed today,” said appeals attorney Susan Otto.
“Moreover, the lawyer who was supposed to defend Christopher’s life was also applying to the office that tried Christopher. This apparent conflict of interest violated Christopher’s right to effective representation.
“So, the question is not whether Christopher should be held responsible for the damage he caused – nobody is objecting to that. Can we really call it justice for killing Christopher for a mistake he made when he was young? The help or defense that everyone deserves.”
Defense lawyers cite scientific research that shows that the brain is still in a stage of development towards a person’s 20s, although death penalty is prohibited in cases where the perpetrator is 17 years old or younger.
The Court of Cassation ruled that the death penalty for children aged 17 and under was unconstitutional. Based on research that children lack the maturity and responsibility of adults and therefore should not be sentenced to death.
In an interview with her lawyer, Vialva said she wanted to stay because she felt “rescued”, not because she was innocent in the Bagley murders.
“When I was a lost boy, I made a huge mistake and took two precious lives from this world. I wish I could correct this mistake every day.”
The Death Penalty Information Center says that a quarter of all federal death row inmates committed their crimes when they were 21 years old or younger. Forty-two percent was 25 years old or younger.
US Attorney General William Barr resumed federal executions in July after a 17-year hiatus. Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Purkey and Dustin Honken were executed in July; Lezmond Mitchell and Keith Dwayne Nelson in August; and William LeCroy on Tuesday.