Judge Finds Federal Executions Unconstitutional

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Judge Finds Federal Executions Unconstitutional Mon Jul 1,12:40 PM ET

By Gail Appleson, Law Correspondent

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A trial judge on Monday became the first U.S. judge to declare the current federal death penalty unconstitutional, calling it tantamount to "state-sponsored murder of innocent human beings."

U.S. District Judge Rakoff, who became the focus of heated national debate when he warned in April that he might rule against federal executions, said research showed that innocent people are being killed without the opportunity for exoneration.

"The unacceptably high rate at which innocent persons are convicted of capital crimes, when coupled with the frequently prolonged delays before such errors are detected...compels the conclusion that execution under the Federal Death Penalty Act...denies due process and, indeed, is tantamount to foreseeable, state-sponsored murder of innocent human beings," said Rakoff.

A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office did not have an immediate comment.

However, legal experts believe the ruling will be appealed. If it is upheld by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, it could stop federal executions in New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

It would have no effect on cases in state courts in the 38 states that have capital punishment.

Although it is unclear what long-term impact Rakoff's decision will have, death penalty opponents hailed the ruling as a sign of that the nation's judiciary was beginning to follow their views.

"Judges are starting to realize what many people in the American public realize ...The system is irreparably flawed," said David Elliot, spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "It's been proven that the death penalty is reserved for people of color, people who can't afford a good lawyer, people who are on the margins of society."

Two states, Maryland and Illinois, have already declared moratoriums on executions pending review of the system's fairness on racial and geographic grounds. The American Bar Association has supported a moratorium on federal executions since 1997.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ( news - web sites) ruled that executing the mentally retarded violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment in a landmark ruling striking down laws in 20 states.

By a 6-3 vote, the nation's highest court said a national consensus had emerged to declare unconstitutional such executions as excessive punishment, based on evolving standards of decency.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that despite these actions, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft ( news - web sites) is aggressively pursuing the federal death penalty and frequently overruling his own prosecutors in the process, according to records and public officials.

In the case before Rakoff, two alleged drug dealers are scheduled go on trial in Manhattan on September 3 for the killing of a government informant. Prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty if the men were convicted.

When Rakoff issued his preliminary finding in April, he gave prosecutors time to file papers challenging his reasoning. However, the judge soundly rejected their arguments.

In one of the government's challenges, prosecutors argued that the U.S. Congress that enacted the Federal Death Penalty Act in 1994 fully debated whether the act should go into effect despite the risk that innocent people might be killed.

"Congress determined that enactment was warranted, based at least in part upon a balancing of a defendant's rights against the rights of innocent victims," prosecutors argued.

But Rakoff said the government's showing in support of these claims was "wholly inadequate.

"The simple fact is that none of the committee reports that comprise the primary legislative history of the Federal Death Penalty Act contains even a single passage supporting the Government's claim," Rakoff said.

-- (Impeach Dumbya @ for. Treason), July 01, 2002


...execution under the Federal Death Penalty Act...denies due process and, indeed, is tantamount to foreseeable, state-sponsored murder of innocent human beings," said Rakoff.

Ah, but the all-important factor is being overlooked! True, it may be "state-sponsored murder of innocent[s]", but it is popular state-sponsored murder of innocents!

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), July 01, 2002.

Timothy McVeigh did not die in vain. Hail to righteous bombers!

-- (Dumbya murderer@McVeigh.noble hero), July 01, 2002.

You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs

Kill bourgeois pug-pigs!

-- (Bomb for Social Justice @ ends justify.means), July 01, 2002.

Does anyone remember me starting a thread many moons ago asking a question something like this: How many executions of innocent people are tolerable in espounding the death penalty?

I remember it well, and my answer was "none". What are the answers now?

Thank God for a federal judge with balls.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 03, 2002.

I’ll check back with this Federal Judge ‘with balls’ after his wife/daughter is raped and murdered by some drugged-out scumbag. Like the liberal infested 9th Circuit Court, this weenie’s weak stomach attitude will be overruled by those with ‘real balls’. Liberal pukes like FS and LN are typical of the ‘head-up-ass’ crowd……save the whales and killers….until it effects my family.

Shit for brains asshole liberals all.

-- Shoot (em@all.up), July 03, 2002.

"Shoot (em@all.up)"


This is the typical dumbass Repug solution anytime they don't agree with something. The ironic thing is that if they do decide to keep doing executions, it will only be because they need it for nutjobs like you.

Talk about "shit for brains asshole"!!

-- hee haaaw! (what@bone.head), July 03, 2002.

Dov'è la ritirata?LOL.

-- (roland@hatemail.com), July 03, 2002.

Hee hawww, for some unexplained reason, your village is still looking for you.

-- Free (head@case.analysis), July 03, 2002.

Nonsense, everyone knows Dumbya is the village idiot. I heard him and Asscroft were looking for you Free Head, so they can prove we still need executions to get rid of nutcases like you.

-- bwaaahahaha! (nutcase gives @ free head. to repugs), July 03, 2002.

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