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Justices deny request to postpone federal execution of man who killed as teenager

The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to postpone the execution of Christopher André Vialva, who was sentenced to death for the 1999 murders and carjacking of Todd and Stacie Bagley, two youth ministers from Iowa who had agreed to give Vialva a ride after stopping to use a pay phone in Texas. Vialva, who was 19 at the time of the crime, was executed by lethal injection on Thursday evening at a federal prison in Indiana. He was the seventh person to be executed by the federal government this year after a 17-year pause on federal executions.

In a petition and accompanying emergency request filed on Monday, Vialva’s legal team argued that the Department of Justice violated the Federal Death Penalty Act and the department’s own regulations by scheduling Vialva’s execution without a separate court order and execution warrant that followed certain procedures in Texas law. On July 31, the department scheduled Vialva’s execution for Sept. 24 — a gap of 55 days between the scheduling notice and the execution date. Vialva’s attorneys argued that Texas law requires a minimum of 91 days between the order setting the date and the execution, and they said the federal government was obliged to follow that provision of state law.

The government’s opposing brief argued that no law requires the federal government, when carrying out an execution, to “mirror the pre-execution procedures” used by the state in which the inmate was convicted. The Federal Death Penalty Act’s requirement that a United States marshal must implement a federal execution in accordance with the sentencing state’s laws “does not require the federal government to adhere to state procedures that do not effectuate death,” the government said.

No justices publicly noted dissent from the Supreme Court’s brief order denying Vialva’s request for an emergency postponement of the execution.

Recommended Citation: Katie Bart, Justices deny request to postpone federal execution of man who killed as teenager, SCOTUSblog (Sep. 25, 2020, 1:16 AM),