Chandra Levy murder trial jury adjourns for weekend

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 19, 2010 

WASHINGTON _ Jurors on Friday concluded their third day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the trial of the man accused of killing Chandra Levy.

Jurors will return Monday morning, after adjourning about 4:45 p.m. Friday.

The lack of resolution followed a day of brief drama and high expectation, as jurors asked D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher their first substantive legal question that could shape their final verdict.

Specifically, in a note sent shortly before 2 p.m., jurors asked for a definition of “assault” as the term may be used in proving the crime of kidnapping.

Chandra Levy’s mother, Susan, was present during the explanation, in a courtroom electrified by the sense that a verdict could be near.

Accused killer Ingmar Guandique faces two counts of first-degree felony murder. One count asserts he killed Levy during an attempted robbery. The other count asserts he killed her during a kidnapping. Kidnapping entails holding someone against their will for the purpose of either assaulting them or taking something of value.

Assault, Fisher told the jurors, means that Guandique “with force or violence injured, or intended to injure,” Levy.

“Any physical injury, no matter how small,” counts as assault, Fisher added. It could mean, he noted, as little as a touch.

After meeting Wednesday and Thursday, jurors convened again at 11:30 a.m. Friday to resume their work. Tortuously long security lines once again slowed entrance into the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse, though other juror issues may have contributed to the late start.

In a sign of potential progress, or motivation, jurors Friday held a working lunch with food from an Au Bon Pain restaurant near the courthouse.

All told, jurors had racked up about 14 hours of deliberation by mid-afternoon Friday. The three male and nine female jurors previousy requested the gloves needed to handle evidence. They also requested a photograph taken of accused killer Ingmar Guandique in Washington’s Rock Creek Park.

The jurors must sift through the testimony, physical exhibits and statements presented during 11 days of trial. In particular, the jurors must weigh the credibility of the prosecution’s chief witness, federal prison inmate Armando Morales.

A founding member of the Fresno Bulldogs gang, Morales testified that Guandique confessed to him while the two men were sharing a prison cell in 2006. Guandique said he killed Levy during an attempted robbery in Washington’s Rock Creek Park, Morales testified.

Morales was the only witness directly connecting the 29-year-old Guandique to Levy’s death, and Guandique’s defense attorneys spent considerable time attacking his testimony and his character. In all likelihood, the prosecution’s case will rise or fall on the jurors’ assessment of a man who explained on the witness stand exactly how to make a prison shank.

One defense witness, another former cellmate of Guandique and Morales, said he'd never heard them discuss the Levy murder despite living in close proximity within an 8- by 12-foot cell.

McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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