Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Nicole Muniz (1987-August, 2003) was a Puerto Rican student who became famous after her death. Her case has made people re-consider whether the death penalty should be instituted in Puerto Rican laws .
Muniz was the daughter of Nestor Muniz, an affluent San Juan businessman. She lived a posh life, and, according to her friends, she had good grades in school and was looking forward to graduating high school in May of 2004 and going to college.
According to police records, Nicole was murdered as she was driving off an intersection in near a bridge in Los Paseos, San Juan. Passing by a "residencial" in Las Cumbres (project apartments area), she was caught in the cross-fire between two rival gangs. She was fatally wounded with a shot to her chest. Also other cars including her Pathfinder were damaged by the shootings' bullets.
The day after she died, her death was on the front pages of the Puerto Rican newspapers, El Vocero and El Nuevo Dia. Just as soon as the news hit the streets, people from around the island began to question the motive that a well off girl had to visit an impoverished area like a project, because projects in Puerto Rico are usually used by drug dealers to sell large amounts of their drugs.
The officially known, and most widely believed reason, is that Nicole passed by the "residencial" that fateful midnight, after a long night of studying and doing an Italian-class homework with her former boyfriend, later becoming an innocent victim of drug warfare as she left the area.
Nicole has become a symbol of the Puerto Rican government's fight against crime. Her photo has been posted on large billboards in each of the 75 cities which comprise Puerto Rico, and, because a scipture below her photo mentions her name, the general public knows her just as "Nicole". A song written and performed by young artist and singer Joel Pierluisi from the widely popular reggae band, Umoja was dedicated to her and explained the meaning of Nicole in the life of many teenagers. A series of events were promoted in the island to fight crime, such as the famous "Unidos por la Paz" march which included representation from many high schools and peaceful organizations around the island.
Five men were found guilty of her death, and it is generally suspected that one of them might have been a sniper who was shooting from a nearby roof that night. While some of the men showed remorse and asked for forgiveness to Nicole's family after being sentenced, they nevertheless will serve long jail terms.
Puerto Rico's government began to consider the death penalty after this case. Since Sila Maria Calderon decided not to run for governor in the 2004 Puerto Rican elections , what the incoming government decides to do about that issue will remain to be seen.
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