The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Puerto Rico did not give reasons for not requesting the death penalty against former Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo, accused of murdering Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, who was pregnant with the boxer, along with a buddy.
In the motion presented on Monday by the federal authorities in the United States, only the decision for which the defense in the case had been waiting for months is reported.
However, the document signed by the chief prosecutor on the island, Stephen Muldrown, does not specify the reasons that led to the decision to desist from requesting the death penalty for Verdejo and the co-defendant in the case, Luis Antonio Cádiz-Martínez, who confessed to federal agents the facts. “The United States of America (the Public Ministry) notifies the court that they will not seek the death penalty in the case against Félix Verdejo-Sánchez and Luis Antonio Cádiz-Martínez”, read the notification.
Verdejo and Cádiz-Martínez now face a life sentence if convicted of the kidnapping that resulted in the death of Rodríguez Ortiz and the unborn baby.
Verdejo faces charges for armed robbery of a vehicle (carjacking) that resulted in the death of a person, kidnapping resulting in the death of a person, one count of the murder of an unborn child, and one count of use and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.
Meanwhile, Cádiz Martínez faces three charges for committing a carjacking that resulted in the death of a person, kidnapping resulting in the death of a person and one charge for the murder of a child had not been born.
At the end of last June, federal prosecutors indicated in a virtual hearing of the case that the process to determine if they would request the death penalty was in the initial stage.
“It would be premature to set a time (when there will be a decision) for that,” said prosecutor Jonathan L. Gottfried at the hearing before Judge Pedro Delgado.
“I might have one for the next status hearing. We will speak with the defense in relation to any period of time”, he added as quoted by El Nuevo Día.
The defense, for its part, requested that a status hearing be established in 60 or 90 days to find out if a decision has already been made by that time. The lawyers suggested a meeting in September.
“We are putting together the defense team right now, assuming it will be a capital case, which is what the (United States) Constitution requires us to do, until we know differently from the prosecution,” said David Arthur Ruhnke, attorney de Verdejo and an expert in death penalty cases.
However, it was not until this week, four months after that judicial exchange, that the decision was reported.
Usually, the processes to request capital punishment are long since they consist of several phases. As part of the process, a defense investigation is required for what is known as the presentation of mitigating factors before the Death Penalty Committee of the United States Department of Justice.
That body is in charge of establishing whether the case will finally be certified as a death penalty. That agency must also receive a recommendation from the Puerto Rico federal prosecutor’s office.
the last word for determine if the case would be certified as capital It corresponds to the Secretary of Justice of the United States, in this case, Merrick Garland.
In this context, it is important to note that the Administration of President Joe Biden, of which Garland is a member, is inclined to the stance to abolish the federal death penalty.
In fact, as a campaign promise, the Democrat expressed his intention to eliminate the federal death penalty.
“Because we can’t make sure death penalty cases are always right, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and encourage states to follow the example of the federal government,” he said in 2020 through his campaign website.
According Cádiz-Martínez’s confession to federal authorities, Verdejo summoned the victim on the morning of April 29. Supposedly, the young woman would show him a blood test confirming that she was pregnant with the boxer.
Upon arriving at the meeting point in the metropolitan area, the young woman entered Verdejo’s Dodge Durango bus.
“After a conversation between Verdejo and the victim in Verdejo’s car, Verdejo hit the victim in the face, and she was injected with a syringe filled with substances purchased at a drug point in the residential Llorens Torres. Verdejo and the witness then tied the victim’s hands and feet with a cable. A cement block was tied to the victim. The witness took the victim’s keys and drove the victim’s car that was nearby,” reads the complaint from federal authorities that cites the collaborator’s testimony.
The autopsy on the body of Rodríguez Ortiz, 27, revealed that the jaw was fractured, had another blunt blow to the nose and had been injected with a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid between 50 and 100 times more powerful than morphine.
The pregnant woman died of drowning asphyxiation. after being thrown from the Teodoro Moscoso bridge into the San José lagoon, between San Juan and Carolina.
While the still-living body of Rodríguez Ortiz plunged into the water, the boxer would have shot the girl at least twice without hitting her.
At the time of the events, Verdejo had an official relationship with Eliz Marie Santiago Sierra, with whom he had a daughter.
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The evidence in the murder case of Keishla Rodríguez in Puerto Rico that could complicate the life of Félix Verdejo
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.