Levy murder suspect seeks to bar snitches' testimony

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 7, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for the man who's accused of murdering intern Chandra Levy are trying to fend off testimony from jailhouse snitches as well as an academic expert in an esoteric field of law enforcement.

In new legal filings, attorneys for Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique challenge prosecutors' plans for summoning certain witnesses. More broadly, the new filings shed light on preparations now under way for the high-profile trial, set to begin Jan. 27.

Guandique's public defenders, for instance, reveal that prosecutors are seeking testimony from a Texas State University professor named Kim Rossmo. Rossmo is an innovator in the field of "geographic profiling," which aims to calculate the most likely locations where a serial offender will strike.

"Mr. Rossmo ... compares the locations of where Ms. Levy's alleged remains were found to the location of two incidents in which Mr. Guandique was convicted of assault to commit robbery ... and makes conclusory statements about the relationship among the three," Guandique's attorneys Santha Sonenberg and Maria Hawilo said.

Raised in Modesto, Calif., Levy had just finished graduate school when she was last seen publicly April 30, 2001. A year later, after her relationship with then-U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., had brought her disappearance to national attention, Levy's skeletal remains were found in Washington's Rock Creek Park.

Prosecutors have charged the 28-year-old Guandique with first-degree murder and sexual assault, claiming that he attacked Levy while she was jogging in the heavily wooded park. Guandique already is serving a 10-year-sentence for attacking two other women in the vicinity.

Guandique has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys repeatedly have questioned prosecutors' reliance on circumstantial evidence.

Sonenberg and Hawilo characterized geographic profiling as an "unproven technique," and in their filing last Friday they also suggest that Rossmo's "purported expertise ... has never been admitted in any court."

In a Texas State profile, however, Rossmo was noted to have "worked with law enforcement on more than 200 serial crime cases" including the 2002 investigation into a Washington-area sniper who killed 10 people. Meticulously tracking event locations can provide invaluable clues, Rossmo thinks.

"The point is that the same patterns of behavior that McDonald's will study when they're trying to determine where to place a new restaurant, or that a government may look at in terms of the optimal location for a new hospital or fire hall, also apply to criminals," Rossmo said in a 1998 speech.

Guandique's attorneys are even more pointed in their questioning of the multiple inmate informants cited by prosecutors. A former cellmate, for instance, told prosecutors that Guandique had raped him.

"As defendant was raping Witness Two, he told (him) that he liked to do it to women like that," prosecution filings say. "Defendant told Witness Two that he tied down the woman that he raped and killed in Washington, D.C."

In a filing last Friday, however, Guandique's attorneys say they should be able to challenge the informants' testimony through cross-examination before the trial begins. The attorneys say that the still-unnamed informants may be untrustworthy because they're getting rewarded with shorter sentences and immigration assistance.

"A hearing is especially important because virtually the entire government's case against Mr. Guandique and in support of his receiving a sentence of life without the possibility of release rests on cooperating informant testimony by convicted felons," the filing says.

In a separate filing, the attorneys are trying to block prosecutors' potential use of DNA evidence obtained through a swab of Guandique's cheek taken when detectives visited him in prison in September 2008. In a related move, the attorneys are asking a judge to block the use of unspecified statements Guandique made to detectives during the same meeting on Sept. 9, 2008.

Attorneys will meet again with a judge on Oct. 16 for a status review of the case.

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