Defense attorneys for the man convicted of killing Chandra Levy will request a new trial after learning that prosecutors had “significant impeaching” information about one of the government’s witnesses, according to documents partially unsealed in the case Tuesday.
A series of closed-door hearings on the case have been held over the past several weeks, signaling possible problems with the case against of Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who was convicted of Levy’s murder in 2010 and is serving a 60-year prison sentence. But Tuesday’s release of approximately 200 pages of heavily redacted motions and transcripts of two hearings offered the first faint indication of the scope of those problems.
“Mr. Guandique and the public have a right to know precisely what happened at Mr. Guandique’s trial and why the government allowed its prosecution to be predicated on a lie,” wrote defense attorneys from the D.C. Public Defenders Service in a motion opposing the seal of a December status hearing.
The Levy case was one of the most high-profile cases in Washington in years.
Levy, a 24-year-old intern for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, disappeared in 2001 after leaving her apartment in jogging clothes. Her remains were found in 2002 in a heavily wooded area of Rock Creek Park. The case attracted particular attention when it was revealed she had a romantic relationship with Gary Condit, then a congressman from California.
In the 2010 trial, prosecutors built their case around testimony from a jailhouse informant who said Guandique confessed to killing Levy. They also drew parallels to two other women Guandique attacked in the park at about the same time that Levy went missing.
About a year after Guandique’s 2011 sentencing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office learned of information that “drastically undercut its prosecution of Guandique,” but it was not until November that the information was partially disclosed, according to the defense team. More than 20 witnesses testified for the prosecution during the trial. Available documents gave no indication which witness was now considered problematic.
As a result, defense attorneys plan to file a motion to dismiss the prior indictment and seek a new trial.
It’s not clear whether the new information would have been admissible at trial. The unsealed transcripts seem to show that during the hearing in December, government prosecutor Fernando Campoamor told the judge “It would have been litigated whether it could have been used at trial, and if so, to what extent it could have been used at trial.” A defense attorney, James Klein, said that was “astounding.”
The documents unsealed Tuesday include transcripts from hearings Dec. 18 and Jan. 4. They also include court documents filed by prosecutors and Guandique’s defense attorneys. Significant portions of the records are blacked out, sometimes for pages.
The transcripts also show attorneys wrestling with the closure of the proceedings. The defense had wanted them to be open, but the judge sealed the hearings after prosecutors argued that a witness’ personal safety would be endangered if they were public. The defense has said prosecutors were not specific about the threats the witness would face.
A post-disposition status hearing is scheduled in the case in D.C. Superior Court for April 11.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.