WASHINGTON The case against the man convicted of killing former intern Chandra Levy is "drastically undercut" by information that prosecutors kept to themselves "for the better part of a year," according to defense attorneys, who now say they will seek a new trial.
In heavily redacted legal briefs and transcripts made public Tuesday, defense attorneys quote prosecutors as acknowledging they had come upon "significant impeaching information" that potentially undermines the credibility of a prosecution witness. But though prosecutors received the information in February 2012, the trial judge wasn't informed until November.
"We think we're being jerked around," defense attorney James Klein said, according to a previously sealed transcript of a Dec. 18 court hearing. But a few weeks later, a newly public account of a Jan. 4 hearing revealed that Justice Department attorney Alessio Evangelista countered: "We were trying to carefully and thoughtfully decide what needed to be done with this information. It did take, you know, several months."
The ensuing legal fight has spurred renewed questions about the strength of the case against Ingmar Guandique, a 31-year-old Salvadoran immigrant whose felony murder conviction in November 2010 seemingly put to rest one of the nation's highest-profile murder mysteries.
Prosecutors convinced jurors that Guandique killed Levy on May 1, 2001, in Washington's Rock Creek Park, shortly before Levy was to return to her family's Modesto home.
The newly public documents show that Klein, chief of the appellate division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, charged at the December hearing that the government's alleged failures to investigate potential witness problems were either intentional or sheer ineptitude.
In either case, Klein alleged that the government may have violated the legal rule that bars prosecutors from knowingly presenting false testimony and obligates them to correct it when it occurs.
"We will be filing a motion to dismiss the indictment and requesting a new trial," defense attorney Jon Anderson stated at the January hearing, the transcript shows.
But prosecutors warned that premature release of witness information could prove dangerous. "We have very credible and specific safety issues," Justice Department attorney David Gorman told the trial judge in January, the transcript shows.