Puerto Rico

General Information

Death Penalty: No
Date of Abolition: 1929

Population: 3,725,789
Capital: San Juan
Governor: Alejandro Garcia Padilla

DPIC's State Database for information on executions, death row population and other statistics in Puerto Rico.
History of the Death Penalty

Puerto Rico Capitol building. Photo by Mtmelendez.

History of the Death Penalty

Spanish colonists brought the death penalty to Puerto Rico. The first recorded executions in Puerto Rico took place in 1514, when four slaves were hanged for an uprising. From 1514-1929, 589 executions were carried out in Puerto Rico. (Source: Jalil Sued-Badillo, PhD., La Pena de Muerte en Puerto Rico: Retrospectiva histórica para una reflexión contemporánea,  Puerto Rico, 2000.)

Notable cases

The last execution in Puerto Rico was the hanging of Pascual Ramos in 1927 for the murder of his boss.

In 2005, an Appeal Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico held that it would be unconstitutional to extradite Juan Melendez Cruz to Pennsylvania if he faced a possible death sentence. The court referred to the issue as one involving the fundamental right to life. In July 2003, Philadelphia District Attorney spokeswoman Cathie Abookire confirmed that Melendez Cruz, a Puerto Rican native, could face the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Melendez Cruz's attorney, Eileen Diaz, argued that extradition of her client under such circumstances was prohibited by the Puerto Rican constitution.

Milestones in abolition/reinstatement

Puerto Rico abolished the death penalty in 1929, two years after their last execution.

In 1952, when Puerto Rico drafted and ratified their own constitution, the Bill of Rights included the straightforward decree "the death penalty shall not exist."

Because of Puerto Rico's status as a Commonwealth of the United States, it is subject to some federal laws, and the U.S. has recently sought the death penalty on federal charges in a number of cases. However, no death sentences have resulted.

Other interesting facts

The first Inquisition court in the western hemisphere was established in San Juan in 1519.


Department of Corrections

ACLU of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Department of Justice

Federal Public Defender, District of Puerto Rico

Victims' services

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