By Vincent O’Bannon, Journalism Guild Writer
An intellectually disabled man scheduled for execution in January claims it would violate his constitutional rights.
He is Alfred Bourgeois, one of five prisoners chosen by the U.S. Justice Department to be put to death in January 2020.
Bourgeois’ lawyers claim his execution would violate his 8th Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, Rolling Stone reported Aug. 21.
The case has raised exceptional interest because of membership changes on the U.S. Supreme Court since its 8th Amendment standards in 2014 and 2002.
In Atkins v. Virginia, the court declared in 2002 for the first time that the 8th Amendment bars the execution of intellectually disabled prisoners whose cognitive functions would render their executions cruel and unusual punishment. Controversy has surfaced over IQ score standards.
“Clinicians, not judges, should determine clinical standards, and judges, not clinicians, should determine the content of the 8th Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in Moore v. Texas that examines the Atkins’ test, the story reported.
Bourgeois was sentenced to death by a jury in Texas in 2014 for torturing, sexually molesting and beating his 2 1/2-year-old daughter to death. His lawyers claim he cannot be executed because his intellectual disability has never been evaluated under the new 8th Amendment standards imposed by the Supreme Court, the story noted.
Bourgeois’ initial claim that he was “too disabled to be executed,” was rejected by a federal judge in Texas in 2011 and again by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013. The 5th Circuit has ruled that he previously and unsuccessfully raised the disability claim and cannot raise it again.