The US government on Thursday executed Christopher Vialva, a convicted murderer and the first Black man to face the federal death penalty since the punishment was resumed earlier this year after a 17-year hiatus.
Vialva was 19 years old when he and fellow members of a gang in Killeen, Texas killed Todd and Stacie Bagley, white married Christian youth ministers from Iowa, on the Fort Hood army base in 1999.
The Department of Justice had said it would kill Vialva, 40, using lethal injections of pentobarbital, a barbiturate, at 6pm EDT (22:00 GMT) at its execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, the sixth federal execution this year after the hiatus and the second this week.
The US Supreme Court denied Vialva’s application for a stay on Thursday.
He was pronounced dead shortly before 7 pm EDT (23:00 GMT), the Associated Press news agency reported.
In a last statement, Vialva asked God to comfort the families of the couple he had killed, saying, “Father … heal their hearts with grace and love.” His final words were: “I’m ready, Father.”
Vialva’s execution came as the United States grapples with racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with daily protests occurring in US cities against police brutality against Black people.
Of the 56 people on federal death row, 26, or 46 percent, are Black, and 22, or 39 percent, are white, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a non-profit organisation based in Washington. Black people make up only 13 percent of the US population.