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Attorneys attempt stay of Bourgeois execution

Claims of intellectual disability blocked by procedure
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Posted at 10:15 AM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 11:16:14-05

Attorneys representing convicted murderer Alfred Bourgeios are seeking a stay of his execution scheduled later this week because they claim the Federal Death Penalty Act unequivocally prohibits carrying out a death sentence against a prisoner who is intellectually disabled.

Bourgeois has been sentenced to be executed on Friday by lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind. He has been convicted of abusing, torturing and beating his young daughter while making a delivery at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in July 2002.

On March 16, 2004, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found Bourgeois guilty of murder within the special territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and unanimously recommended a death sentence, which the court imposed. His conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal, and his requests for collateral relief were ultimately rejected by federal courts.

In July 2019, his execution was scheduled for Jan. 13, 2020, but legal impediments prevented the government from proceeding at that time.

“Congress meant for [the Federal Death Penalty Act] to do what it says: prevent the carrying out of a death sentence on an intellectually disabled prisoner like Mr. Bourgeois,” Bourgeois' attorneys claim. And the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, “giving no present-tense effect to the FDPA, . . . create[s] a blanket rule whereby some federal prisoners who are ID will inevitably be executed,” they say.

Over the dissent of two judges, the Court of Appeals held that it does not matter if Mr. Bourgeois is intellectually disabled.

“Alfred Bourgeois is intellectually disabled under current standards” according to the leading medical organizations and the Supreme Court’s prior decisions," they claim.

A district court recently held that Mr. Bourgeois made a “strong showing” of intellectual disability, but a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ordered his case dismissed on the grounds that a different court, years earlier, had denied his intellectual disability claim on the basis of standards now known to be invalid and unreliable.

Over the dissent of two judges who voted to keep the stay of execution and grant a hearing on Mr. Bourgeois’s intellectual disability, the Seventh Circuit denied en banc rehearing on December 1, 2020.

Bourgeois' legal team seeks Supreme Court review of the Seventh Circuit’s ruling that it does not matter whether he is intellectually disabled, because in its view Bourgeois had his claim reviewed once, albeit under invalid standards, and procedural restrictions now override the possible violation of federal law. The Seventh Circuit’s decision undermines federal law prohibiting the execution of a person who is intellectually disabled, the petition argues, “and creates an unconstitutional rule whereby some federal prisoners who are ID will be executed.

Bourgeois' attorneys argue that without Supreme Court review, the government will violate federal law and the Constitution by executing him despite his well-documented intellectual disability.