Puerto Rican Court Bars Extradition of Man Facing Death Penalty to Pennsylvania
An Appeal Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico recently held that it wouldbe unconstitutional to extradite Juan Melendez Cruz to Pennsylvania if he faces 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 is prohibited by the Puerto Rican constitution. The Attorney General of Puerto Rico plans to appeal the decision to the Puerto RicanSupreme Court. (Primera Hora, "Apelativo ratifica rechazo a pena capital: Extradicion sujeta a garantia de vida del reo," October 21, 2005).
Puerto Rico abolished the death penalty in 1929. In 1952, whenPuerto Rico drafted and ratified its own constitution, the Bill of Rights included the decree that "the death penalty shall not exist." Because of Puerto Rico's status as a Commonwealth of the UnitedStates, 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.
Federal Death PenaltyCase in Puerto Rico Prompts Protests
Despite the fact that the Constitution defining Puerto Rico's status as a self-governing commonwealth associated with the United States unconditionally banscapital punishment, the U.S. is seeking the federal death penalty in the trial of two Puerto Rican men. The trial has spurred grass-root protests against the death penalty. Gov. Sila M. Calderon, theCommonwealth's top elected official, said the case demonstrates the need to further reform the U.S. - Puerto Rican relationship, especially in regard to federal laws "that infringe on our culture, our...