Martinez Guzman hearing ends, some fundamental issues remain

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RENO, NV (KOLO) A string of murders--two women in Douglas County, followed by a Washoe County couple--each in their homes in the space of a week, briefly terrified local residents last January.

But the investigation moved quickly, ending in the arrest of a then 19 year old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, Wilber Martinez Guzman.

Denying any responsibility at first, he broke down during his interview in the Carson City Jail, admitting to the murders blaming them on his need for drugs.

Video of that interview highlighted this week's status hearing.

Hearing this, the casual viewer might assume the legal case to be a simple matter. In fact, it's anything but.

There are a number of reasons, but two are key.

First, the decision by the district attorneys in both counties for a joint prosecution beginning with a Washoe County Grand Jury returning indictments for crimes in both counties.

The second was the decision to seek the death penalty which raises the stakes on a number of issues.

The case has also been complicated by a score of pretrial motions--on everything from what evidence will be admissible to whether the prosecution can look at the visitation log at the Washoe County Jail to determine what expert witnesses may be visiting Martinez Guzman, thereby getting a peek at defense strategy..

This week's status hearing was aimed at resolving those motions.

Judge Connie Steinheimer, who has made it clear she wants no unnecessary delays ruled on some, took others under submission.
But the central questions: one trial or two in separate counties and when, remain unresolved.

The State Supreme Court heard the jurisdictional issue three weeks ago. A ruling which could simplify things has yet to emerge.

Meanwhile, even the imposed deadline of November 1 isn't likely to be the end of more motions. the defense indicated Wednesday it will be filing an amended motion for a continuance.

At the moment, the trial is still scheduled for April. The next status hearing December 16.