WASHINGTON -- A U.S. trial judge in New York said Monday that the federal death penalty is unconstitutional because there is an "unacceptably high" risk that an innocent person will be executed.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff has no practical significance beyond halting the government's effort to bring death-penalty charges against two Bronx drug dealers who allegedly tortured and killed an informant.
A federal trial judge has no authority beyond his courtroom to strike down the law, and other federal death penalty cases can proceed.
Nonetheless, the opinion by Rakoff, a 1995 Clinton appointee to the Southern District of New York, adds to the growing debate over whether capital punishment can be fairly administered.
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