Lawyers for Chandra Levy's accused killer lose pretrial motion

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 10, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Attorneys for the man accused of killing former intern Chandra Levy failed Friday in their efforts to block certain testimony and evidence from being presented at his upcoming trial.

In a modest law enforcement win, D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher said prosecutors could use statements that accused murderer Ingmar Guandique gave to detectives while in prison on other charges. Defense attorneys had argued Guandique felt coerced into talking.

"I can't find Mr. Guandique's statements were involuntary," Fisher concluded. "There were no threats. There was no heavy-handedness in any way."

Guandique's statements to detectives while in prison in 2008 aren't expected to play a major part in his murder trial. Primarily, prosecutors wanted the opportunity to present the statements as potential rebuttal for what the defense might say.

Guandique goes on trial Oct. 4 for the 2001 murder of Levy, who prosecutors say was assaulted while jogging in Washington's Rock Creek Park. At the time of her disappearance, Levy was reportedly preparing to return to California after finishing graduate school and a Bureau of Prisons internship.

Levy's parents still live in Modesto, where she was raised. Fisher did not rule Friday on a request that Chandra's mother, Susan, be permitted to attend the entire trial even though she is also a potential witness. Prosecutors Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez and Amanda Haines indicated they are still discussing possible trial arrangements with Susan Levy's attorney.

Other pretrial questions likewise remain unanswered following a four-hour hearing Friday and will now have to await a follow-up hearing Sept. 22.

Defense attorneys want to block prosecutors from using documents seized from Guandique's cell at U.S. Penitentiary Victorville. A still-unresolved legal question is whether the search violated his privacy rights even though he was an inmate.

Defense attorneys also want to block statements he gave an official writing a pre-sentencing report, including his alleged acknowledgement that he likes to prey upon the vulnerable in remote locations.

"He should have been warned that any statement could be used against him," attorney Maria Hawilo said.

Guandique's attorneys are likewise challenging the validity of a search warrant, because it was signed by a San Bernardino County judge who they contend had no jurisdiction over the federal prison. Guandique was serving time at Victorville for other crimes committed in Rock Creek Park, which is federal property.

Guandique spoke with Washington detectives for between 90 minutes and two hours in September 2008 at Victorville. Detectives used two cotton swabs to take DNA samples from his cheeks and tried to get him to open up about Levy's murder.

"He seemed to be very nervous," Washington Detective Todd Williams testified Friday. "His legs were shaking, but he also seemed to be indifferent to what was going on."

Williams also testified that, in what appeared to be an interrogation ploy, detectives falsely told Guandique that they already had matched his DNA to samples taken from the Levy crime scene. Williams acknowledged Friday that the police had no such sample.

"They lied to him," Guandique attorney Santha Sonenberg said.

Sonenberg added that, according to Williams' interrogation notes, Guandique told detectives that he didn't want to talk about Levy' s murder but that they kept asking him questions anyway.

McClatchy Newspapers 2010

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service