Pedro Gilbert, Manuel Boyga, Manuel Castillo, Angel Garcia, Juan Montenegro, and Francisco Ruiz

Pedro Gilbert was the captain of the piratical Spanish schooner Panda, sailing out of Havana, Cuba in September 1832. Off the coast of Florida, Panda waylaid the Massachusetts-based brig, Mexican, boarded the ship, stole more than $20,000 in silver, and set the ship ablaze.

After Panda sailed off, the crew of the Mexican was able to extinguish the fire, sail in to port, and report what had happened to authorities.

The Panda, which was usually employed in transporting slaves, was later found off the coast of Africa, where a British ship captured its crew and sank the ship.

Extradited to Salem, Massachusetts in August 1834 to stand trial, the twelve men were charged with piracy in federal court in November. At trial in December 1834, five of the more junior men were acquitted after being found to have been following orders and seven other men were convicted and sentenced to death.

On the gallows on June 11, 1835, Manuel Boyga slit his own throat as he awaited execution. He was hanged anyway, though he may already have been dead. Gilbert, Castillo, Garcia, and Montenegro were also hanged.

North Star (Danville, Vermont), June 22, 1835

Francisco Ruiz, who had also been sentenced to death, was not hanged after an initial determination that he was insane. After determining that he was feigning insanity, Ruiz was hanged three months later, on September 12, 1835.

Bernard DeSoto, the owner and first mate of the Panda, had also been sentenced to death. However, his clemency pleadings, assisted by his attractive wife, succeeded in gaining his pardon from President Andrew Jackson.

This is one of only a handful of cases in which federal executions were conducted for crimes that did not include murder.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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