US set for another execution before Trump leaves office

By: AFP      Published: 12:52 AM, 12 Dec, 2020
US set for another execution before Trump leaves office

US authorities prepared for their 10th and final execution of the year on Friday as President Donald Trump's administration carries out a series of capital punishments before he leaves office.

Alfred Bourgeois, a Black man sentenced to death for the murder of his two-year-old daughter, was to be executed by lethal injection at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

It was to occur the day after another convicted prisoner, Brandon Bernard, was also executed in Terre Haute.

Following a paternity test, Bourgeois, a 55-year-old former truck driver, took temporary custody of his daughter and brought her on a trucking route for part of the summer of 2002.

He severely abused her and eventually smashed her skull on the windshield.

Since the crime took place on a military base where he was making a delivery, he was tried in federal court and sentenced to death in 2004. 

He has remained on death row ever since, with the United States having suspended federal executions beginning in 2003, in particular because of questions over the legality of drugs used in injections.

Trump however restarted federal executions in July even though states still using capital punishment have delayed theirs due to the dangers posed to prison staff and witnesses by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Seven federal executions occurred before the November 3 election that Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden, who is due to be sworn in on January 20 despite the outgoing president's refusal to concede.

Biden has pledged to work with Congress to bring an end to federal executions.

For 131 years, outgoing presidents traditionally suspended federal executions during the transition period.

But the Trump administration has announced six executions between November and January, including Bourgeois.

His lawyers have asked the US Supreme Court to intervene, saying he suffers from a mental disability.

"The jury that sentenced Mr. Bourgeois to death never learned that he was a person with intellectual disability because his trial lawyers did not present the evidence that was available to them," said his new lawyer Victor Abreu.

If the court does not intervene, Bourgeois will be the 17th person executed in the United States in 2020, a historic low linked to the suspensions at the state level.

He would be the 10th executed at the federal level, the highest in more than a century.