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U.S. executes second federal inmate in as many days

The execution of Alfred Bourgeois, 56, followed the death of Brandon Bernard, 40. Three more federal executions are scheduled for January, including the first woman in 70 years.
Image: Federal Execution protest
Protesters line Prairieton Road across from the federal execution chamber, on Dec. 10, 2020, in Terre Haute, Ind.Austen Leake / The Tribune-Star via AP

A Louisiana man on death row for more than 15 years for the abuse and murder of his young daughter was executed Friday evening, the second death penalty case in as many days to be carried out by the federal government.

Alfred Bourgeois, 56, was executed by lethal injection. He was pronounced at 8:21 p.m., according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Bourgeois, a long-haul trucker, was convicted of torturing his 2-year-old daughter physically, sexually and emotionally, and during a delivery route to the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas, beating her to death after she tipped over her potty training seat, according to the Department of Justice.

His final words were defiant and unapologetic.

"I ask God to forgive all those who plotted and schemed against me, and planted false evidence," Bourgeois said. "I did not commit this crime."

As pentobarbital began flowing through his arms, Bourgeois gave his spiritual adviser a thumbs up, and his spiritual adviser raised his own thumb.

His death was the 10th federal execution this year. An application to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution was denied earlier Friday.

Previous execution attempts were halted after his attorneys argued he has an intellectual disability that should prevent him from being put to death under a 2002 Supreme Court decision regarding defendants' mental capacity.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, dissented Friday based on that very argument.

"The Court today allows the execution of Alfred Bourgeois to proceed even though Bourgeois, who has an IQ between 70 and 75, argues that he is intellectually disabled under current clinical standards," Sotomayor wrote.

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His death came just one day after Brandon Bernard, 40, was put to death at the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana.

Bernard was 18 when he was arrested as an accomplice in the 1999 abduction and murder of two youth ministers in Texas. His execution made him the youngest person, based on his age when the offense occurred, in nearly seven decades to be put to death by the federal government.

His death was opposed by some politicians, celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West, and high-profile attorneys who were unsuccessful in their 11th-hour appeal to the Supreme Court and President Donald Trump to intervene. Attorneys for Bernard said the prosecution at his trial unconstitutionally withheld evidence that would have led jurors to give him a life sentence.

Image: Federal Execution protest
A protester holds an anti death penalty sign along Prairieton Road across from the Federal Execution Chamber, on Dec. 10, 2020 in Terre Haute, Ind.Austen Leake / The Tribune-Star via AP

After a 17-year hiatus of executions on the federal level, the Trump administration resumed them in July over objections by civil liberties and prisoner advocate groups about the risk and spread of the coronavirus. The last time there were multiple executions during a president's lame-duck period was more than 130 years ago, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Trump administration's return to the use of the federal death penalty has included executing the only Native American on death row, against his tribe's wishes, and the planned execution next month of the first female inmate in almost seven decades. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will put a moratorium on the death penalty.

The recent executions have also drawn protests calling out the systemic racial bias surrounding capital punishment and highlighting how four of the five most recent scheduled executions, including that of Bernard and Bourgeois, involve Black men.