RENO, Nev. (AP) — A death penalty dispute goes before Nevada’s Supreme Court Wednesday when justices hear arguments about how long a Salvadoran immigrant's lawyers should have to prove he's intellectually disabled and therefore can’t be executed if convicted of four murders.
Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman, 22, is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 20 for the fatal shootings and multiple burglaries during an 11-day crime rampage in Reno and rural Douglas County in January 2019.
A Washoe County judge set an April 20 deadline for his lawyers to file an intellectual disability motion that would require evidentiary hearings to determine if Martinez-Guzman could legally be put to death in Nevada.
His public defenders say state law allows such motions be filed up to 10 days before trial. They’ve asked the Supreme Court to stay all district court proceedings until justices rule on their objection to what they say is a premature deadline set five months before the scheduled trial.
They say they’ve been unable to gather necessary evidence in his native El Salvador due largely to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Prosecutors say it’s a stall tactic that further delays justice for the victims and families at a trial that’s already been postponed twice while witnesses' memories continue to fade.