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Puerto Rican jury rejects death sentence in police killing

SAN JUAN (Reuters) - A Jamaican man was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of an undercover policeman in Puerto Rico after a jury rejected federal prosecutors' request to impose a death sentence.

Puerto Rico has not executed anyone since 1927, and it abolished the death penalty under the constitution it enacted in 1952. But because it is a U.S. territory, the death penalty can still be applied in capital cases brought under federal law.

On Thursday night, jurors failed to reach the unanimous verdict required to impose the death sentence, sparing the life of Lashaun Casey, 32.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of undercover police officer Jesus Lizardi during a 2005 drug deal in the coastal town of Luquillo. Local media said four jurors voted against capital punishment.

The case was tried under federal law because Lizardi was shot to death during a carjacking, which is a federal crime.

Casey was convicted last month on charges of murder, carjacking and weapons violations.

His trial unfolded against a crime wave that has become a top public concern. But a poll this week by El Nuevo Dia newspaper showed 57 percent of Puerto Ricans oppose the death penalty.

Members of the Coalition Against Capital Punishment protested outside the federal courthouse in San Juan every day during the trial.

(Reporting by Reuters in San Juan; Editing by Jane Sutton and Vicki Allen)

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