U.S. District Judge William Sessions said the law does not adequately protect defendants' rights. "If the death penalty is to be part of our system of justice, due process of law and the fair trial guarantees of the Sixth Amendment require that standards and safeguards governing the kinds of evidence juries may consider must be rigorous, and constitutional rights and liberties scrupulously protected,'' he said.
On July, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in New York City became the first federal judge to declare the 1994 Death Penalty Act unconstitutional. He cited evidence indicating that innocent people have been put to death.
The rulings will not affect individual states' death penalty statutes. Thirty-eight states allow capital punishment, though some have not executed anyone for many years. The governors of Illinois and Maryland have placed moratoriums on executions in their states.
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and drug killer Juan Garza have been executed under the federal death penalty law.
Tuesday's ruling came in the case of Donald Fell, 22, who is facing the death penalty for allegedly kidnapping and killing a woman in 2000.