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I've recently been following the case of boxer Felix Verdejo, who pleaded not guilty yesterday in killing of Keishla Rodríguez. Cádiz Martínez, a second person indicted in the killing, also pleaded not guilty.

According to the reports, this 2nd person (Cádiz Martínez) participated in the killing, and has been cooperating with the FBI. His testimony is a big part of the reason why the boxer was arrested.

My question: Why would he plead not guilty if he's cooperating with the FBI? Since the death penalty is being considered, I assumed that he gave testimony in order to plead guilty and get a reduced sentence.

But then I read that it's a formality to plead "not guilty", and that's why I posted the question.

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    To be clear - he pleaded not guilty to a number of charges, not to “killing” You can kill someone without it being criminal.
    – Dale M
    May 13 at 1:07
  • Both were charged with carjacking, kidnapping, and the death of an unborn baby. The boxer is charged with a 4th count: use of a deadly weapon to commit a violent crime. May 13 at 13:43
  • They are asked how they plead. Guilty or Not Guilty.
    – CDA
    May 19 at 18:43
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It is certainly not the case that all accused plead not guilty. Some plead guilty, often as part of a plea bargain. Some plead "no contest" meaning that the accused does not admit guilt, but will not argue the point in court. For many purposes this has the same effect as a guilty plea, but may matter later when the accused can truthfully say that no guilt was ever admitted. I think there are some other less common pleas available as well.

It is not uncommon for an accused to plead not-guilty at first, and later complete an agreement with the prosecutor and change the plea to guilty, perhaps on only one accusation or some subset of accusations. This would often be in connection with some sort of plea bargain.

In general, if there is any doubt about wanting to contest the accusation, an initial plea of not-guilty will be made by the accused, because this is fairly easy to change to a plea of guilty later, while changing a plea of guilty to not-guilty is much harder, and is not always allowed.

I do not know what reasons there might be in the specific case mentioned, but I caution that news reports on such matters are not always accurate.

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Probably his cooperation and usefulness to the government isn't yet complete. I would expect that, as long as he has value to the government, he'll continue to be held but that his lawyer and the government will jointly request the court to delay proceedings until he is done cooperating.

The level of cooperation and value provided to the government will be taken as inputs into plea dealing. At that point, I'd expect the 2 sides to present the proposed deal to the court for approval.

If it all goes south, the government will want to try him for the topmost offenses... so they keep the original charge.

He's going to plead not-guilty in hopes of getting either charges reduced OR a good sentencing rec, or both... but pleading guilty NOW would be premature.

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