Bourgeois v. Watson, No. 20-1891 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Bourgeois was convicted of murder on federal property, 18 U.S.C. 7 and 1111, and sentenced to death after he brutally abused and murdered his two-year-old daughter in 2002. Bourgeois collaterally attacked his death sentence on the ground that he is intellectually disabled, citing the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA), 18 U.S.C. 3596(c), and the Supreme Court’s “Atkins” decision (2002). He fully litigated that claim under 28 U.S.C. 2255, then sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. To invoke that statute, Bourgeois had to show that his case fit within the “savings clause,” 28 U.S.C. 2255(e). In the district court, Bourgeois accompanied his section 2241 petition with a motion to stay his execution—which the district court granted. The court found that the government had waived its argument that Bourgeois could not channel his FDPA claim through the savings clause.
The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that Bourgeois does not meet the stringent savings-clause eligibility requirements and that his 2241 petition is procedurally barred. The district court’s factual determination that the government waived its argument was clearly erroneous and an abuse of discretion. Even if the government had forfeited its FDPA argument, that forfeiture would not prevent consideration of the savings-clause issue. .The savings clause is not simply another avenue for appeal. Bourgeois had the chance to appeal the court’s denial of his intellectual-disability claim; there was nothing “structurally inadequate or ineffective about section 2255 as a vehicle.”