Executions in 2018: min. 690 plus 'thousands' in China

Puerto Rico - A Special Case

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: 'Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico'— literally Associated Free State of Puerto Rico), is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States which according to the U.S. Supreme Court's Insular Cases is 'a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.'

Puerto Rico has a republican form of government, subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution.

Puerto Rico's head of state is the President of the United States.

Puerto Rico is represented in the United States Congress by a nonvoting delegate, formally called a Resident Commissioner (currently Pedro Pierluisi). Current legislation has returned the Commissioner's power to vote in the Committee of the Whole, but not on matters where the vote would represent a decisive participation.

Puerto Rican abolitionists opposed the US-imposed death penalty from the early 20th century. They obtained a four-year moratorium in 1917. The last execution took place in 1927 and the Puerto Rican legislature abolished the death penalty in 1929.

Today, Puerto Rico is the only territory under US sovereignty to have included the abolition of capital punishment in its constitution. However, the Federal Death Penalty Act and the Federal Extradition Act apply to Puerto Rico, exposing Puerto Ricans to death sentences.

Puerto Rico is the only country in the world with a constitutional prohibition of the death penalty but a federal (United States) imposition of the death penalty, by means of the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994.

As of now Puerto Rico’s situation is the following:

  • Puerto Rico has two certified cases for a death penalty sentence, however none of them have started yet but are expected to start this year.
  • There are more than 22 Puerto Ricans in death rows across the United States, most of them in Pennsylvania.
  • The government of Puerto Rico signed on February 2010 a Memorandum of Understanding which cedes some cases to the federal jurisdiction, some which are eligible for death penalty sentences. Since that signature two cases have been referred to the Federals and could be eligible.
  • The governor of Puerto Rico and the District Attorney have been making declarations direct or indirect that favor the death penalty.


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