RENO — The Serbian government is asking a Nevada court to block the execution of one of its citizens, saying its consulate was not informed of his 1994 arrest as required by international law.
Serbia, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed last week in Washoe County District Court in Reno, maintains the notification would have provided Avram Nika with assistance that could have spared him the death penalty.
Nika, 41, is on death row at Ely State Prison for the 1994 killing of a good Samaritan who stopped to help him along Interstate 80 near Reno. He has yet to exhaust his state and federal appeals.
The failure to notify the consulate caused no mitigating evidence to be presented at his sentencing hearing , according to the brief .
District Attorney Dick Gammick said there was no consulate to contact because the former Yugoslavia where Nika was from was undergoing drastic change at the time. Serbia did not exist as a country then, he said .
It’s not the first time a foreign government has appealed to U.S. courts on behalf of one of their citizens who wasn’t given the benefit of their consulates.
Last month, Mexico’s government unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stay a Texas execution to allow Congress time to consider legislation that would require court reviews for condemned foreign nationals who aren’t offered the help of their consulates. The high court rejected the request 5-4 and the Mexican citizen was executed.
Nika was sentenced to death for shooting to death Edward Smith, who was on his way home to Fallon when he stopped about 20 miles east of Reno to help Nika, whose car had broken down.