The federal law governing murder is located at 18 USC § 1111, and states: "(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping
, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse
, burglary, or robbery
; or perpetrated as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him who is killed, is murder in the first degree. Any other murder is murder in the second degree
First-degree murder can be punishable by the death penalty under federal law pursuant to 18 USC § 3591.
Two cases addressed constitutional issues related to the death penalty in 1968. In United States v. Jackson, the Supreme Court
invalidated a law that gave sole discretion as to the imposition of the death penalty to a jury, ruling that it coerced a person who was eligible for the death penalty to avoid a trial
by jury. In Witherspoon v. Illinois, the Court held that the prosecution could not strike a juror simply because they had reservations about the death penalty.