RENO, Nev. (KOLO) In their combined news conference January 28, 2019, the district attorneys from Washoe and Douglas counties said they were combining their efforts.
“I will be prosecuting the case with Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks,” said Mark Jackson, District Attorney for Douglas County.
But that isn't the only thing that will merge. The prosecutors say they will combine, so far, nine counts against defendant Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman and he'll have one trial, in Washoe County.
“We understand that there could be some legal issues associated with that. That will be resolved in the courts,” said Jackson.
One of the most recent cases where this strategy was used to convict a defendant was in 2015. Jeremiah Bean was sentenced to death for killing five people--4 in Fernley and one near Mustang in Washoe County on Mother's Day Weekend in 2013. Bean went to trail in Lyon County.
Criminal Defense Attorney Martin Wiener shows us pages of Nevada Supreme Court rulings where defense attorneys have argued combining charges was not fair to their clients.
The Supreme Court has upheld the move when the crimes are connected or are part of a common scheme or plan.
“But if one was done with guns, and the other was done with poison. If one was invited into the house and in the other case they broke into the house. Those kinds of differences might lead a judge to say, these cases are not connected enough for us to have a single trial,” says Martin Wiener, a criminal defense attorney in Reno.
Wiener says in 95% of the cases, the court also mentions "Judicial Economy" as part of its reasoning. That is, it is less expensive to try a case this way.
“This is a way of instead of having two trials and doubling the expenses and time involved, it can be wrapped up in one trial,” says Wiener.
It will be up to a judge in Washoe County to determine if Martinez-Guzman’s criminal counts can be combined from Washoe and Douglas counties.
Evidence collected to charge burglary and other counts against him in Carson City can be used in part in the murder cases from Douglas and Washoe.
Martinez-Guzman is expected to be taken from the Carson City Jail to Justice Court in Washoe County to make his initial appearance. District Attorney Chris Hicks says there is no timetable yet regarding when that will happen.