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More delays possible in Martinez Guzman murder case

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 6:44 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Two and a half years after a crime spree that left four dead in northern Nevada, there’s still no firm date for a trial date for the young Salvadorian immigrant charged with the murders and a hearing Thursday produced no new answers.

It’s long been clear the case against Wilber Martinez Guzman is more likely to turn on his mental abilities than the crime itself.

Those facts and evidence surrounding the deaths of two Douglas County women and a Reno area couple are fairly straightforward and he gave a confession to investigators.

But the district attorneys of the two counties are seeking the death penalty. His attorneys say his IQ may be as low as 66, perhaps even lower. If so, by law, that would take the death penalty off the table. So, a pre-trial hearing on that issue is very important, but so far, it has yet to be held.

The case has been stalled repeatedly about issues surrounding the availability of expert witnesses, the logistics needed to gather background information in the defendant’s native El Salvador and now, news that a defense witness, a neuropsychologist, is about to undergo treatment for cancer and won’t be available for that hearing.

It was also noted pandemic-related travel restrictions threaten to keep some witnesses from making the trip from Central America to Reno.

The prosecution says it’s all part of a pattern of stalling. The defense argues the death penalty demands full deference to their client’s rights.

“This case is never going to go. This ID hearing is never going to go until the defendant is told it’s time to go,” Washoe District Attorney Chris Hicks told the court. “There will always be an excuse.”

“The state is the one that has sought death, not us,” countered Public Defender John Arrascada. “They can withdraw that request. The state in seeking death has to acknowledge that in seeking death we the defense have higher obligations and duties.”

Arrascada suggested a new date for the intellectual disability hearing, January 31st. Connie Steinheimer has made no secret of her frustration with the delays. She had her doubts, but no answers Thursday. She took the matter under advisement and will rule later.

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