TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Trump administration plans to continue its unprecedented series of post-election federal executions Friday by putting to death a Louisiana truck driver who severely abused his 2-year-old daughter for weeks in 2002, then killed her by slamming her head against a truck’s windows and dashboard.
Lawyers for 56-year-old Alfred Bourgeois argue he has an IQ that puts him in the intellectually disabled category, saying that should have made him ineligible for the death penalty under federal law.
Bourgeois would be the 10th federal death-row inmate put to death since federal executions resumed under President Donald Trump in July after a 17-year hiatus. He would be the second person executed this week at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Three more executions are planned in January.
Bourgeois met with his spiritual adviser Friday as he sought to come to terms with the possibility of dying, and he was also praying, one of his lawyers, Shawn Nolan told The Associated Press just hours before the scheduled execution.
“He certainly doesn’t want to die — and it’s harder for him to grasp being killed by the federal government. But he does get it that this is bad.”
The attorney added: “He’s praying for redemption.”
Bourgeois took up drawing in prison, including doing renditions of members of his legal team. Nolan said he hasn’t been a troublemaker on death row and has a good disciplinary record.
The last time the number of civilians executed federally was in the double digits in a year was under President Grover Cleveland, with 14 in 1896.
The series of executions under Trump since Election Day, the first in late November, is also the first time in more than 130 years that federal executions have occurred during a lame-duck period. Cleveland also was the last president to do that.
Bourgeois’ lawyers contend that the apparent hurry by Trump, a Republican, to get executions in before the Jan. 20 inauguration of death-penalty foe Joe Biden, a Democrat, has deprived their client his rights to exhaust his legal options.
The Justice Department gave Bourgeois just 21 days notice he was to be executed under protocols that slashed the required notice period from 90 days, Nolan said.
“It is remarkable. To rush these executions during the pandemic and everything else, makes absolutely no sense,” he said.
Several appeals courts have concluded that neither evidence nor criminal law on intellectual disability support the claims by Bourgeois’ legal team.
On Thursday, Brandon Bernard was put to death for his part in a 1999 killing of a religious couple from Iowa after he and other teenage members of a gang abducted and robbed Todd and Stacie Bagley in Texas. Bernard, who was 18 at the time of the killings, was a rare execution of a person who was in his teens when his crime was committed.
Several high-profile figures, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, appealed to Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison, citing, among other things, Bernard’s youth at the time and the remorse he has expressed over years.
In Bourgeois’ case, the crimes stand out as particularly brutal because they involved his young daughter.
According to court filings, he gained temporary custody of the child, referred to in court papers only as “JG,” after a 2002 paternity suit from a Texas woman. Bourgeois was living in Louisiana with his wife and their two children.
Over the next month, Bourgeois whipped the girl with an electrical cord, burned her feet with a cigarette lighter and hit her in the head with a plastic baseball bat so hard that her head swelled — then refused to seek medical treatment for her, court documents say. Prosecutors also said he sexually abused her.
Her toilet training allegedly enraged Bourgeois and he would sometimes force her to sleep on a training toilet.
It was during a trucking run to Corpus Christi, Texas, that he ended up killing the toddler. Again angered by her toilet training, he grabbed her inside the truck by her shoulders and slammed her head on the windows and dashboard four times, court filings say.
When the girl lost consciousness, Bourgeois’ wife pleaded for him to get help and he told her to tell first responders that she was hurt falling from the truck. She died the next day in a hospital of brain injuries.
After his 2004 conviction, a judge rejected claims stemming from his alleged intellectual disability, noting he did not receive a diagnosis until after he was sentenced to death.
“Up to that point, Bourgeois had lived a life which, in broad outlines, did not manifest gross intellectual deficiencies,” the court said.
Attorneys argued that finding was based on misunderstandings about such disabilities. They said Bourgeois had tests that demonstrated his IQ was around 70, well below average, and that his childhood history buttressed their claims.
Bourgeois’ lawyers are not arguing that he should have been acquitted or should not have been handed a stiff penalty, just that he can’t be executed, Nolan said.
The nature of the crime has made it more difficult to garner any sympathy for Bourgeois, including from some judges who can allow the brutality of what happened to trump execution law, Nolan said.
“But that’s not the way these things are supposed to be done,” he added. “Based on past Supreme Court decisions and (federal law), he should not be executed.”
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