Monday, November 22, 2010

Guilty verdict in Chandra Levy murder case

WASHINGTON — A jury on Monday found an El Salvadoran immigrant guilty of murdering Washington intern Chandra Levy.
Jurors deliberated four days before finding Ingmar Guandique, 29, guilty in the 2001 disappearance and killing of Levy.
Levy's story made national headlines when she was romantically linked with Gary Condit, then a Democrat representing parts of California in Congress. Condit was initially the main suspect but police no longer believe he was involved.
In closing arguments last week, Guandique's attorney said it was the former lawmaker — and not her client — who acted "like a guilty man" in the months after Levy went missing.
Prosecutors maintained that Levy's killing fits the pattern of other crimes committed by Guandique in 2001.The same "tunnel vision" that caused police to overzealously pursue Condit as a suspect in Levy's disappearance has now been unfairly trained on the man on trial for her murder, defense lawyers argued.
Still, the attorneys also used closing arguments to question Condit's behavior since Levy's disappearance. Ultimately, they argued, the government's case against a Salvadoran immigrant rested solely on lies by a prison inmate seeking to curry favor with the government.

Levy's disappearance became a national sensation when she was romantically linked to Condit, who testified earlier this month that he had nothing to do with the disappearance or killing.
Her remains were found in Washington's Rock Creek Park roughly a year after she went missing. She was 24.
Public defender Santha Sonenberg reminded the jury last week how fervently police pursued Condit.
"Back in 2001 the tunnel vision in this case was with regard to Mr. Condit. By 2008, 2009, the tunnel vision had changed and it focused on our client," Sonenberg said.
Yet Sonenberg also focused much of her closing arguments on Condit. She pointed a finger in Condit's direction, though she never explicitly accused him of involvement."He does things like a guilty man," Sonenberg said of Condit's behavior in the months after Levy's May 2001 disappearance.
Sonenberg noted that Condit took the Fifth Amendment in grand jury testimony in 2002, which is allowed only when a witness believes he will incriminate himself by answering. Condit, in trial testimony, said he took the Fifth because he was angry at prosecutors who he believed were out to get him. Sonenberg also said that Condit repeatedly refused to answer whether he had an affair with Levy, even when asked directly during trial. Condit said during the trial that he was entitled to some privacy.
The defense attorney said there was powerful evidence of Guandique's innocence, including DNA from an unknown male found on Levy's tights. The DNA matches neither Guandique nor Condit, and Guandique's DNA was never found on anything connected to Levy.
Prosecutors argued that the DNA likely came from contamination by someone who handled Levy's tights as evidence. Sonenberg pointed out that the government could have checked the DNA against anybody who handled the tights, but apparently failed to do so.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines, meanwhile, acknowledged that the case against Guandique lacked DNA evidence or eyewitnesses. But she asked jurors to use their common sense and to believe the testimony of a prison inmate who says Guandique confided in him that he killed Levy."Justice is what needs to happen for this young girl," Haines said, holding up a smiling photo of Levy to the jury. "She's been waiting nine years for justice."
Haines said Levy's death fits a pattern of two other attacks committed by Guandique on female joggers in Rock Creek park in May and July of 2001. Guandique was convicted in those assaults and is serving a 10-year sentence.
And she said the testimony of Guandique's former cellmate, Armando Morales, is particularly compelling. Morales testified that Guandique was scared of being labeled a rapist by other inmates, and admitted killing Levy but denied raping her.
Haines said Morales' testimony included details that prove the confession was not fabricated. Morales said that Guandique told him he attacked Levy from behind, the same method that was used against the other two women assaulted by Guandique. Guandique also admitted to Morales that he had attacked other women who had fought him off, which fits the pattern of his other two attacks in Rock Creek Park.
Defense lawyers argue that Morales concocted the confession story to curry favor with prosecutors.


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