Judge Has Issues With Death Penalty

April 25, 2002

   NEW YORK (AP) -- A judge said Thursday he was ready to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional unless the government can quickly explain why so many condemned inmates turn out to be innocent. U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff made the conclusion in an 11-page order in which he said he was about to toss out the death penalty eligibility of two men charged in a drug and murder conspiracy.

   In doing so, he said, he would find the federal death penalty law unconstitutional on the grounds that innocent people were being sent to death row ``with a frequency far greater than previously supposed.'' He gave the government a final opportunity to present arguments on the subject before he issues a final ruling after May 31. ``If the court were compelled to decide the issue today, it would ... grant the defendants' motion to dismiss all death penalty aspects of this case on 
   the ground that the federal death penalty statute is unconstitutional,''  Rakoff wrote.

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