Chandra Levy's mom battles news media over evidence

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 24, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Chandra Levy's mother is now hoping to lock up some of the trial evidence used to convict killer Ingmar Guandique.

In a post-verdict fight, Susan Levy is asking the judge who presided over Guandique's recently concluded trial to keep sealed certain evidence sought by media organizations.

"Specifically, Mrs. Levy objects to the release of photographs that contain Chandra Levy's skeletal remains and trial exhibit photographs of Chandra Levy's clothes and shoes," attorney Jani Tillery stated in a court filing. "For Mrs. Levy, these photographs only stir up emotional anguish and retraumatization."

Tillery further dismissed the media's demand for crime victim photos as "murdertainment." However, she and Levy are not objecting to release of other exhibits.

Tillery is an attorney with the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center. She personally accompanied Susan Levy from the time Guandique's trial began Oct. 25 to the Nov. 22 return of a verdict.

Following a little more than three days of deliberations, the three male and nine female jurors convicted Guandique of two counts of first-degree felony murder. He faces the potential of life in prison when he's sentenced in February.

Before the trial began, Tillery filed the legal papers necessary for Susan Levy to attend the trial in its entirety even though she was a potential witness. In the end, Levy was not called to testify.

The trial concluded, though, without a ruling by D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher on the media organizations' request for access to some trial exhibits.

Led by the Washington Post, organizations including the Associated Press, Gannett and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press had asked Nov. 3 for "immediate and contemporaneous access" to all of the exhibits used in the high-profile trial.

"It is well settled that both the First Amendment ... and the common law afford the public and the press presumptive rights of contemporaneous access to the records of an ongoing criminal trial, including items such as the trial exhibits," attorney Patrick J. Carome argued on behalf of the media organizations.

Levy, though, maintains that at least some of the exhibits should never be made public.

"Mrs. Levy should not have to face possibly seeing those horrible images of her daughter's remains at any given time for the rest of her life when reading the newspaper, watching television or using the Internet," Tillery stated in the Nov. 22 filing.

Tillery further contended that distribution of the photographs would violate Susan Levy's established rights as a crime victim. Immediate family members of the slain are covered under the definition of crime victim.

"The media's desire to quench the public's insatiable thirst for sensationalism of gruesome, graphic crimes should not be obliged at the expense of a crime victim's well-being," Tillery argued.

McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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