For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4304 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
September 30, 2021
Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson and Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks would like to inform the public about a recent Nevada Supreme Court decision impacting the joint prosecution of Wilber Ernesto Martinez Guzman, who was previously indicted on murder charges accusing him of the January 2019 murders of Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken in Douglas County and Gerald and Sharon David in Washoe County. In a split decision, the Court ruled that two separate trials must be conducted. The outcome of this decision now means both the Washoe and Douglas County jurisdictions will move forward with two independent murder prosecutions, separating the previously joined cases.
In further explanation of the ruling, the majority’s decision resolved an unsettled legal question in Nevada when facts of a case involve multiple jurisdictions. The Guzman case presented extraordinary factual circumstances, namely the intertwined murders of 4 people and the commission of other crimes throughout 3 jurisdictions in our state over a two-week span in 2019. Both DA’s Offices believe Nevada statutory authority and prior Supreme Court case law supported the decision to try all the crimes in a single venue. Moreover, judicial economy and the rights of the family members of the victims reinforced that decision. The Supreme Court disagreed and ruled 5 to 2 in favor of the defense’s venue challenge.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Pickering, along with Justice Parraguire, disagreed with the decision stating, “this conclusion offends the Legislature’s power to define and expand venue with its enactment of NRS 171.030 and increases the potential for inconsistent results and unwarranted separate trials because the State must prosecute the same facts twice.” The dissent further stated that the majority opinion side-stepped legal precedent in Nevada and that separating the case into two trials in two separate counties is legally unnecessary and an unfair imposition on the victims’ families and the court system.
While disappointed in the decision, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks and Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson remain committed to seeking justice for the families of the victims and their respective communities.
In commenting on today’s ruling, District Attorney Hicks emphasized, “the Supreme Court’s decision only requires that two trials will have to be conducted, one in Washoe County and one in Douglas County. It does not mean that Guzman will evade prosecution for the crimes he is alleged to have committed. While this was a split decision, we respect the Courts ruling and acknowledge it represents a setback in the timely resolution of this case. Regardless, the prosecution of Guzman remains my office’s highest priority. We will continue our steadfast pursuit for justice for the victims of these heinous crimes.”
District Attorney Jackson added, “We have been, and remain, in constant contact with the families of the victims and they know our commitment to seeking justice for the senseless murders of their loved ones. The Supreme Court’s ruling today does not change our commitment. Whether it be one trial or four trials, justice will be served.”
For additional information on the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling, please visit: http://caseinfo.nvsupremecourt.us/public/caseView.do?csIID=59956