Defense calls out prosecutors in Levy case; will seek new trial

Readers might well remember the tragic death more than a decade ago of Chandra Levy, a congressional intern, in Washington, D.C. After years of speculation and false leads, a 31-year-old Salvadoran immigrant, Ingmar Guandique, was arrested, with prosecutor securing a felony murder conviction in November 2010.

That has ultimately turned out to be only round one in what has turned into an escalating battle between the government and defense attorneys, with the latter arguing that there are serious flaws in what transpired leading up to Guandique’s conviction.

“We think we’re being jerked around,” stated criminal defense attorney James Klein at a recent court hearing, in which he told D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher that prosecutors’ handling of witness information reflected either intentional disregard of the state’s legal duties or “sheer ineptitude.”

Either way, noted Klein, Guandique will be seeking a dismissal of the indictment and a new trial.

Recent developments in the case have been notable for several reasons. First, the defense and prosecution have locked horns over what the latter acknowledged at a court hearing was “significant impeaching information” that could have impacted on the credibility of a witness. Although the prosecution received that information early last year, it did not notify the judge until November. That alone, contends Guandique’s defense team, “drastically undercuts” the prosecution’s case and warrants a new trial.

Second, the matter is putting a strong spotlight on questions surrounding the public’s right of access to trial proceedings. .The prosecution in the Levy case argues that certain witness-related issues in the case are of the type “that merits shielding the proceeding from public view.”

The defense flatly rejects that view, and various media groups — including the Associated Press and Washington Post — are forcefully arguing for greater public disclosure regarding case details.

Source: Miami Herald, “Levy prosecutors sat on key information, defense claims,” Michael Doyle, Feb. 19, 2013