Caribbean Diaspora and the Capital Punishment in the United States an overlooked issue – Part I

Written by Carmelo Campos-Cruz

Although the execution of Charles Elroy Laplace in St Kitts on 19 December 2008 was the last in the Caribbean and the number of death sentences in our region has declined steadily, there is another way to impose capital punishment on people from this region; by a death sentence in another country where a person is subject to a criminal procedure. This situation applies considerably to the Caribbean Diaspora in the United States of America. This the main destination for migrants from our region and the only country in the Americas that executes people every year. Census from 2010 estimated that 3.7 million nationals from the islands of the Caribbean lived in the United States, plus 4.6 million Puerto Ricans. The Caribbean immigrant population increased to 4.4 million in 2017, and to almost 5.5 million Puerto Ricans in 2016.  


The objective of this article is to summarize the application of capital punishment to the people from the Caribbean in the United States. The information presented comes primarily from two sources: (1) a page devoted to the situation of foreign nationals under sentence of death and (2) a report issued last April about Puerto Rican facing the death penalty in the United States. The second part of this analysis, to be published later, will examine specific cases and histories of human beings from our region who have been executed or who are awaiting execution in the US. 

People from the Caribbean executed in the United States

Since 1976, when the United States reestablished capital punishment, 24 persons from the Greater Caribbean have been executed in four states; 13 were Mexicans. Texas, the most prolific jurisdiction employing the death penalty in US history, accounts for 14 executions, followed by Florida (5) and Virginia (3). When we focus on the islands of the Caribbean, four Cuban nationals have been executed, followed by the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico with one person executed from each of these countries.

Persons from the Greater Caribbean executed in the United States since 1976

NameCountryDate of executionStateMethod of execution
Leslie LowenfieldGuyana04/13/1988LouisianaElectrocution
Carlos SantanaDominican Republic03/23/1993TexasLethal injection
Ramon MontoyaMexico03/25/1993TexasLethal injection
Pedro MedinaMexico03/25/1997FloridaElectrocution
Irineo MontoyaMexico06/18/1997TexasLethal injection
Mario MurphyMexico09/17/1997VirginiaLethal injection
Jose VillafuerteHonduras04/22/1998ArizonaLethal injection
Miguel FloresMexico11/09/2000TexasLethal injection
Javier SuarezMexico08/14/2002TexasLethal injection
Rigoberto SanchezCuba10/02/2002FloridaLethal injection
Angel MaturinoMexico06/27/2006TexasLethal injection
Angel NievesPuerto Rico12/13/2006FloridaLethal injection
Jose MedellinMexico08/05/2008TexasLethal injection
Heliberto ChiHonduras08/07/2008TexasLethal injection
Edward BellJamaica02/19/2009VirginiaLethal injection
Yosvanis Valle Cuba11/10/2009TexasLethal injection
Humberto LealMexico07/07/2011TexasLethal injection
Manuel ValleCuba09/28/2011FloridaLethal injection
Edgard TamayoMexico01/22/2014TexasLethal injection
Juan ChavezCuba02/14/2014FloridaLethal injection
Ramiro HernandezMexico04/09/2014TexasLethal injection
Alfredo PrietoEl Salvador10/01/2015VirginiaLethal injection
Ruben CardenasMexico11/08/2017TexasLethal injection
Roberto RamosMexico11/14/2018TexasLethal injection

Summary by country

Number
Mexico13
Cuba4
Honduras2
Dominican Republic1
El Salvador1
Guyana1
Jamaica1
Puerto Rico1
Total24
Central America3
Islands of the Caribbean + Guyana8
from abolitionist countries of the Caribbean18
from retentionist countries of the Caribbean6

Persons of Caribbean origin on death row in the United States today

There are 106 persons from countries of the Greater Caribbean waiting to be executed in seven States (plus one in the federal jurisdiction), including 35 persons from the islands of the Caribbean. Most of these persons originate from Puerto Rico (20) and Cuba (8). Another ten individuals have had their death sentences reversed and are waiting for a new trial or a sentencing hearing in which capital punishment may be imposed again.

Persons from the Islands of the Caribbean 

under Sentence of Death in the United States

NameCountryState
Manuel Machado AlvarezCubaCalifornia
Omar BlancoCubaFlorida
Ana Maria CardonaCubaFlorida
Jesus DelgadoCubaFlorida
Leonardo FranquiCubaFlorida
Pablo San MartinCubaFlorida
Marbel MendozaCubaFlorida
Manolo RodriguezCubaFlorida
Fabio Evelio GomezDominican RepublicArizona
Obel Cruz GarciaDominican RepublicTexas
Borgela PhilistinHaitiPennsylvania
Robert GordonJamaicaFlorida
Granville RitchieJamaicaFlorida
Albert ReidJamaicaPennsylvania
Christopher HenriquezPuerto RicoCalifornia
Christian CruzPuerto RicoFlorida
Ricardo GonzalezPuerto RicoFlorida
Norberto PietriPuerto RicoFlorida
Michael RiveraPuerto RicoFlorida
Héctor Gabriel SanchezPuerto RicoFlorida
Angel R. SantiagoPuerto RicoFlorida
Reinaldo RiveraPuerto RicoGeorgia
Orlando BaezPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Jose BusanetPuerto RicoPennsylvania
George Ivan LopezPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Hector M. MoralesPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Cletus C. RiveraPuerto RicoPennsylvania
William RiveraPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Edwin R. RomeroPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Abraham SanchezPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Jose UderraPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Christopher HenriquezPuerto RicoNorth Carolina
James BroadnaxPuerto RicoTexas
Daniel TroyaPuerto RicoFederal government 
Linda CartySt KittsTexas
Ian LightbournThe BahamasCalifornia

Persons from the Islands of the Caribbean previously sentenced to death and awaiting resentencing or a new trial in the United States

NameCountryState
Lancelot ArmstrongJamaicaFlorida
Victor CaraballoPuerto RicoFlorida
Joel LebronPuerto RicoFlorida
Alex PaganPuerto RicoFlorida
Michael ShellitoPuerto RicoFlorida
Milton MontalvoPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Noel MontalvoPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Dolan DarlingThe BahamasCalifornia
Dane AbdoolTrinidad & TobagoFlorida
Noel DoorbalTrinidad & TobagoFlorida

Summary by country

Sentenced to deathAwaiting resentencing or a new trialTotal
Mexico51152
Puerto Rico20525
Cuba808
El Salvador808
Honduras505
Guatemala303
Colombia202
Dominican Republic202
Jamaica314
The Bahamas112
Costa Rica101
Haiti101
St. Kitts & Nevis101
Trinidad & Tobago022
Total10610116
Central America17017
Islands of the Caribbean35944
from abolitionist countries of the Caribbean93699
from retentionist countries of the Caribbean13417

Conclusion

The Caribbean Diaspora has been adversely affected by capital punishment in the United States. There are more people from the Greater Caribbean sentenced to death in the US (106) than persons facing execution in all the retentionist countries of the Caribbean (85). Notably, there are more persons from countries that have abolished capital punishment (Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Haiti) than from retentionist countries (Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas, St. Kitts and Trinidad and Tobago), due to the size of their respective migrant population in the US. As this article was limited to present basic figures, more studies will be needed to understand the impact of this issue in the struggle to eradicate this cruel punishment in the Americas.

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