Prosecutors and defense attorneys now know the retrial of the man convicted of killing former intern Chandra Levy should start March 1, 2016, nearly 15 years after her disappearance first attracted national attention.
But while resolving Friday on when to start the retrial of Ingmar Guandique, attorneys and the newly assigned judge now overseeing the high-profile case still face crucial questions whose answers will unfold over many months.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to this,” D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin noted at an earlier hearing.
At the outset of this second effort to end the mystery that began in 2001 when Levy vanished shortly before returning to her family’s Modesto, Calif., home, some key questions include:
– Will Guandique be released on bond pending the retrial?
Though it might seem a long shot, given the severity of the charge and Guandique’s undocumented status, defense attorneys have said they will seek pre-trial release of the 33-year-old native of El Salvador who was previously convicted in November 2010. He was sentenced to 60 years.
“He has already spent five years in prison,” defense attorney Jonathan Anderson noted at an earlier hearing.
– Will prosecutors again rely on former Fresno gang member Armando Morales?
Morales proved crucial in the first trial, as he testified compellingly that Guandique confessed to him while they were cellmates. Since then, his credibility has been undermined amid revelations about his previously undisclosed history of informing. Anderson, at an earlier hearing, provocatively suggested prosecutors might not want to risk putting Morales back on the stand.
At the least, Morales would face a significantly tougher cross-examination the second time around, with a brighter light aimed at the career criminal’s past entanglements with law enforcement.
“If you guys can’t get me immunity for whatever I have to offer, and I need immunity, then I don’t think I should go forward with this,” Morales told a Fresno County sheriff’s deputy in May 1998, according to a transcript discovered after Guandique’s trial.
– Beyond any decision about Morales, how will the government’s case differ?
The prosecutors from the first trial have moved on to other Justice Department assignments, with assistant U.S. attorneys Deborah Sines and Kathryn Rakoczy taking over for the retrial. Stylistically, procedurally and substantively, Sines and Rakoczy could change up the pace. They made their first court appearance in the Guandique case Friday.
The 63-year-old Sines has been a prosecutor since 1986, handling some of the District of Columbia’s most notorious homicide cases. Rakoczy is in her early 30s, and joined the Justice Department after graduating from Harvard and American University’s Washington College of Law.
– Will former California Congressman Gary Condit testify again?
Rumors about Condit’s affair with Levy, subsequently confirmed in court by prosecutors, drove the Levy story into the media stratosphere. The buzz was enough that prosecutors felt it necessary to summon Condit as a witness in the first trial so he could directly confront and deny questions about whether he had anything to do with Levy’s disappearance.
“I didn’t commit any crime,” Condit said on the fifth day of the initial trial, “and I didn’t do any harm.”
With the further passage of time, and Condit having left office in 2002, the new team of prosecutors might conclude the alleged Condit angle no longer requires addressing.
– Will the judge impose sanctions on the government?
Guandique’s defense attorneys contend prosecutors violated the legal requirement to share potentially exculpatory or otherwise useful information with the defense. The question revolves around what prosecutors in California and Bureau of Prisons officials in Atlanta, among others, knew about Morales and what they shared or should have shared with the D.C. trial team.
“I fully anticipate we’re going to be asking for very serious sanctions,” Anderson said at a hearing last December.
The exact nature of any proposed sanction is unclear, although in theory prosecutorial misconduct can draw contempt charges or other serious consequences. First, though, the judge would have to reject the government’s vehement argument that prosecutors diligently followed the rules.
– Which judge will oversee the trial?
Judges matter, on everything from what evidence gets admitted and which questions get asked to how a jury is instructed. The first trial judge, for instance, refused to compel Condit to publicly explain the nature of his relationship with the much-younger Levy.
Though Morin, a Clinton administration appointee and former public defender, is currently in charge, D.C. Superior Court assignments can change with the new year.