Inmates with Levy suspect may testify at trial

Defense won't get their names till 2 weeks before trial

July 16, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Four people who have served prison sentences with the man charged in the slaying of former Modestan Chandra Levy may be called to testify against him at his trial, prosecutors told a D.C. Superior Court judge Friday.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor told Judge Gerald Fisher that he did not want to reveal to the defense certain details about the witnesses until two weeks before the October trial. Campoamor cited safety concerns.

"We have reason to believe that witnesses have been threatened and intimidated," he said.

Prosecutors have said they have notes or letters that they believe were written by defendant Ingmar Guandique that contain threats to witnesses and admissions about Levy's slaying.

Guandique has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other counts filed in Levy's death. Levy vanished in 2001 after completing an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Her body was found a year later in Rock Creek Park.

Guandique also pleaded not guilty in December to additional charges that he threatened a witness in the case.

Defense attorneys said they need access to information about the potential witnesses much sooner than the two weeks the prosecution requested. They said they need to review the potential witnesses' criminal backgrounds, whether they have used aliases or have mental health concerns that affect their ability to tell the truth.

"We're talking about going to courthouses all across the country," Guandique's attorney, Santha Sonenberg, said.

Fisher agreed with the prosecution's timeline, saying they need to provide the defense information, including whether the witnesses provided inconsistent statements, just two weeks before the trial.

Latinos on jury at issue

Attorneys also began discussions with the judge about selecting a jury in the high-profile case involving a defendant who is a Salvadoran illegal immigrant.

Defense attorneys have expressed concerns about the under-representation of Latinos in juries. But Fisher said Friday that many factors, including a person's residency status, citizenship and ability to read and write in English, could result in a smaller proportion of Latinos serving on Washington juries than those in the city's population.

According to the latest census data, roughly 40 percent of Washington residents are white, about 54 percent are black, 8.6 percent are Hispanic or Latino, and 3.4 percent are Asian.

Fisher said he worries about finding jurors who are prepared to deal with the "hardship" of serving on a trial that's expected to last five to six weeks. He told attorneys Friday there likely will be a questionnaire for potential jurors that includes issues such as ethnicity, gang membership and exposure to pretrial publicity.

Guandique has been serving a 10-year prison sentence for separate attacks in the same park about the same time as Levy's disappearance and near where her remains were found.

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