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Judge stays execution of Louisiana man on intellectual disability claim

March 10 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Indiana ordered a temporary stay of execution for a Louisiana man convicted of killing his 2-year-old daughter, saying he made a strong case that he's intellectually disabled.

U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson's order gives Alfred Bourgeois' lawyers time to argue their case that his execution would violate the Federal Death Penalty Act and the Eighth Amendment.

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Bourgeois, 55, was convicted in 2004 of capital murder for the 2002 death of his daughter in Corpus Christi, Texas. Prosecutors said the girl died when Bourgeois became angry with her for turning over her potty training chair in the cab of his 18-wheeler and slammed her head into the vehicle's window.

Investigators said he regularly physically and sexually abused the toddler before her death.

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Bourgeois said he was innocent of the child's death and blamed her mother.

Bourgeois' lawyers filed a petition in August to have his death sentence suspended on the grounds that he's entitled to have his intellectual disability evaluated under the Eighth Amendment. The amendment says that execution constitutes a cruel and unusual punishment for someone intellectually incapacitated.

His lawyers cited two IQ test scores of 68 and 70, adaptive impairments and deficiencies dating back to when he was a minor as evidence of his intellectual disability.

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Magnus-Stinson said she issued the temporary stay because she believes Bourgeois' argument has grounds but that only the court can determine whether he's intellectually disabled.

She also criticized the government for failing to address Bourgeois' claim that his execution violates the FDPA in its response to his petition.

"Respondent wholly failed to address Mr. Bourgeois' FDPA claim, thereby waiving any argument that Mr. Bourgeois' FDPA claim cannot proceed," the judge wrote. "And Mr. Bourgeois has made a strong showing that he is intellectually disabled and thus the FDPA forbids his execution."

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Bourgeois' petition came one month after Attorney General William Barr announced the resumption of federal executions and scheduled them for five inmates, including Bourgeois.

In 2014, former President Barack Obama ordered then-Attorney General Eric holder to review the use of the death penalty in the United States, effectively implementing a moratorium on executions. The last federal execution was that of Gulf War veteran Louis Jones Jr. in March 2003 for the rape and murder of a fellow soldier, Pvt. Tracie McBride in 1995.

Bourgeois' execution -- scheduled for Jan. 13, 2020 -- was stayed once before in another court case.

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U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., halted the Justice Department's plans to resume executions in November in response to another lawsuit naming Bourgeois as a defendant. In that case, lawyers argued Barr's plan to use a single drug, pentobarbital, for lethal injections violates the law which says federal officials must use the same method of execution as the state where the inmate was convicted.

Chutkan's ruling removed execution dates for Bourgeois and the four other death row inmates scheduled for execution by the Justice Department last year.

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