The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a federal law that allows judges to authorize the killing of a suspect in custody can apply to “tortured prisoners.”
In a 7-1 ruling Friday, the high court found that the so-called “tardiness relief” law, passed in 1976 and signed by President Gerald Ford, is unconstitutional.
The ruling means that federal courts can now consider whether a suspect who is in jail or on parole can be killed for his or her own good, or whether he or she should be treated as a terrorist.
It’s one of a string of rulings on federal law in recent months that have allowed the death penalty to be applied in cases where the suspect is not dangerous.
The Supreme Court decision in the case of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was closely watched in the aftermath of the Nov. 13, 1995, bombing.
The justices struck down part of the law, which allows judges and prosecutors to authorize killings of people who have committed serious crimes.
The law also allows the government to kill suspects without charging them with crimes.
The court’s ruling Friday was the second such decision by the high Court since President Donald Trump took office in January.
In May, the court upheld a lower court’s order to block executions in Texas, and in June, the justices upheld a decision by a three-judge panel in Pennsylvania that found that a Texas inmate was eligible for the state’s death penalty because he was “a dangerous person.”
The court ruling is the first by a high court to address whether it can consider whether inmates who are mentally ill can be targeted for the death of a judge.
Critics say the law is unconstitutional because it allows judges, prosecutors and prison officials to kill people without charging anyone with a crime.
Critics also say the legislation is based on the idea that mentally ill people are dangerous and should be killed.
The law has drawn criticism from some rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Council on Law and Justice.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the law will not be enforced if it is unconstitutional, and the law’s drafters should not be held liable for it.