SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Puerto Rican voters on Sunday unexpectedly rejected a pair of constitutional amendments that would have limited some defendants' right to bail and shrunk the legislature in the U.S. territory to cut costs.
With nearly 83 percent of the precincts counted, the "no" vote was leading 54.22 percent to 45.78 percent on the bail restrictions and 53.45 percent to 46.55 percent on the measure to trim the number of seats in the legislature to 56 from 78, elections officials said.
Governor Luis Fortuno, who supported both proposals, accepted defeat and said that limiting bail for those accused of violent crimes would have been "an important additional tool."
"Unfortunately, it did not pass, but one has to respect the will of the people," Fortuno said while speaking to the Basta Ya committee of relatives of crime victims, whose group names means "Enough."
The Caribbean island's constitution contains an absolute right to bail, and police said their efforts to prosecute murderers were often hampered because witnesses feared being killed by suspects who were out on bail.
The proposed amendment would have let judges deny bail for those accused of premeditated murder or killings committed during home robberies, sexual assaults or kidnappings. It also would have let them deny bail for those accused of firing guns from motor vehicles or in crowded places or killing law enforcement officers.
About 740,000 of the island's 2.3 million registered voters took part in the election, according to the State Elections Commission.