FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY: Juries in Puerto Rico Continue to Reject Death Penalty

On September 27, a federal jury in Puerto Rico rejected the death penalty for Edison Burgos Montes, who was convicted in August of the murder of his girlfriend in 2005. The jury deliberated for two days before sentencing Montes to life in prison for this drug-related crime. Puerto Rico’s constitution forbids capital punishment, but U.S. prosecutors can seek the death penalty under federal law. This is the fourth capital case tried by U.S. authorities since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988. None of the cases has resulted in a death sentence. Governor Luis Fortuno and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s sole representative to the U.S. Congress, spoke out recently against the death penalty. In addition, one of the candidates for governor, Senator Alejandro Garcia Padilla, promised to try to stop the use of the federal death penalty for Puerto Rico residents. There also have been popular demonstrations against this use of the death penalty in the Commonwealth.

(“Puerto Rico jury rejects death penalty,” Huffington Post, September 27, 2012; “Puerto Rico jury deliberating rare death penalty case,” Reuters, September 27, 2012). See Federal Death Penalty.