Chandra Levy murder trial: Jury deliberations enter third day, verdict soon

 @ibtimes
on November 19 2010 9:42 PM
Levy, Guandique And Condit
Murdered federal intern Chandra Levy, main photo, Ingmar Guandique, top right, and Gary A. Condit Reuters

The jury deliberation on the fate of Ingmar Guandique, who has been charged with murdering federal intern Chandra Levy, has entered its third day and a verdict is expected soon.

Earlier this week, on Monday, the prosecutors dropped kidnapping and attempted robbery charges against Guandique because of statutory limitations issues in a case that dates back to May 2001. It leaves Guandique facing two felony murder counts. At its peak, the prosecutor's case against Guandique included a total of nine charges, including attempted sexual assault, obstruction of justice and other crimes. Seven of those charges were dropped in the past two weeks.

On Monday, the defense attorneys also challenged the credibility of prosecution witness Armando Morales, who claimed that Guandique had confided in him that he had killed Levy in Rock Creek Park but it was unintentional as he only wanted to rob her. Morales and Guandique shared a prison cell at Big Sandy federal penitentiary in Kentucky for three months in 2006.

Jose Alaniz, a 28-year-old gang member serving time on gun charges, took the the witness stand and testified that he never heard Guandique talk about Levy or murder to anyone.

However, on cross-examination, Alaniz acknowledged that often he could not understand what Guandique and Morales were speaking in Spanish as he wasn't fluent in Spanish and also sometimes had his radio headset on. He said he also slept a lot as he was recovering from a gunshot wound.

The defense attorneys also tried to discredit Morales by making defense investigator Brianna Bond take the witness stand and testify that she was properly attired when she visited Morales in prison. Earlier Morales had testified that he had refused to speak to the investigator who came to visit him in prison because she was scantily clad and the prison had strict dress code for visitors that prohibit revealing clothing.

On Tuesday, lead defense attorney Santha Sonenberg also pointed out that former Congressman and levy's lover Gary A. Condit did things like a guilty man.

According to Sonenberg, during the investigation of Levy's disappearance, Condit demanded to be represented by a lawyer and to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights before a 2002 grand jury, which is allowed only when a witness believes he will incriminate himself by answering.

When he testified during the trial of Guandique, Condit was similarly hostile to questioning, Sonenberg noted.

Did Mr. Condit act remorseful? Sonenberg asked the jury. Or does he really act like someone who's really concerned about himself?

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 told the jury that Morales was coached by the prosecution and is trying to curry favor with the prosecutors.

The defense claims Guandique has become a scapegoat for a botched investigation. According to Sonenberg, it is possible that Levy was killed elsewhere and then her body was dumped in the park. Someone else should be on trial in this case, she told the jurors.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines said that though the case against Guandique lacks DNA evidence or eyewitnesses, yet, the jurors should use their common sense and believe the testimony of a prison inmate (Morales) 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 also told the jury that said Levy's death fits a pattern of two other attacks Guandique committed on two othr female joggers in Rock Creek Park in May and July of 2001 for which he is serving a 10-year sentence.

All throughout the trial, Guandique declined the chance to testify in his own defense. By staying off the witness stand, he avoided cross-examination that could have brought to light more of his criminal record.

The defense rested its case on Tuesday and jury deliberation commenced on Wednesday.

If convicted of first-degree murder in Levy's death in 2001, Ingmar Guandique could be sentenced to life in prison without parole, CNN reported. If convicted of second-degree murder, he could receive an indiscriminate sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

 Chandra Levy case

Chandra Levy, 24, went missing in May 1, 2001 just after completing an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She was last seen jogging in Rock Creek Park. Her disappearance made national headlines for several months as she was a beautiful and ambitious young woman who was having an affair with married Congressman Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.). Levy's decomposed body was found in May 2002 by a man walking his dog in the woods.

For several months the police suspected that the affair had gone horribly wrong and focused on Condit to the exclusion of everyone else. However, Condit, who lost his Congress seat after news of the affair broke out, had vehemently denied having anything to do with Levy's disappearance despite acknowledging that he liked her very much in an interview with ABC.

A couple of years after Levy went missing, the police finally charged Ingmar Guandique, a Salvadoran immigrant, with raping and killing Levy. Prosecutors acknowledge that they have no physical evidence or eyewitnesses in Levy's slaying but claim Guandique, who is a member of Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang, had admitted to fellow prison inmates of raping and killing Levy. Authorities claim they also found a magazine picture of Levy in his cell.

The prosecutors are also trying to establish a crime pattern by saying Levy's death was similar to two other attacks he made on young women in Rock Creek Park in the spring and summer of 2001.

Guandique, who is serving a 10 year jail term for the two assaults, claims he is innocent.

A jury of 12 women and four men, which includes four alternates, was selected last week by the attorneys representing both sides and D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher. The trial is expected to end this month.

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