WASHINGTON – The same "tunnel vision" that caused police to overzealously pursue Gary Condit as a suspect in the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy has now been unfairly trained on another man on trial for her murder, defense lawyers argued Tuesday.
Jurors heard closing arguments in the Levy case following a trial that lasted nearly a month. A Salvadoran immigrant, Ingmar Guandique, is accused of killing Levy in 2001 while she exercised in Washington's Rock Creek Park. Her remains were found in the park roughly a year after she went missing. Levy's disappearance made headlines when she was romantically linked to Condit, then a congressman representing central California as a Democrat.
Condit was initially considered a suspect but police no longer believe he was involved.
Public defender Santha Sonenberg reminded the jury Tuesday how fervently police pursued Condit.
"Back in 2001 the tunnel vision in this case was with regard to Mr. Condit. By 2008, 2009, the tunnel vision had changed and it focused on our client," Sonenberg said.
Sonenberg said there is powerful evidence of Guandique's innocence, including male DNA from an unknown source that was found on Levy's black running tights. The DNA matches neither Guandique nor Condit, and Guandique's DNA was never found on anything connected to Levy.
Prosecutors argue that the DNA likely came from contamination by someone who handled Levy's tights as evidence. But Sonenberg pointed out that the government could have checked the DNA against anybody who handled the tights, but apparently failed to do so.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines, meanwhile, acknowledged that the case against Guandique lacks DNA evidence or eyewitnesses. But she asked jurors to use their common sense and to accept the testimony of a prison inmate who says Guandique confided in him that he killed Levy.
"Justice is what needs to happen for this young girl," Haines said, holding up a smiling photo of Levy to the jury. "She's been waiting nine years for justice."
Haines said Levy's death fits a pattern of two other attacks committed by Guandique on female joggers in Rock Creek park in May and July of 2001. Guandique was convicted in those assaults and is serving a 10-year sentence.
And she said the testimony of Guandique's former cellmate, Armando Morales, is particularly compelling. Morales testified that Guandique was scared of being labeled a rapist by other inmates, and admitted killing Levy but denied raping her.
Haines said Morales' testimony included details that prove the confession was not fabricated. Morales said that Guandique told him he attacked Levy from behind, the same method that was used against the other two women assaulted by Guandique. Guandique also admitted to Morales that he had attacked other women who had fought him off, which fits the pattern of his other two attacks in Rock Creek Park.
Defense lawyers argue that Morales concocted the confession story to curry favor with prosecutors after seeing a report on CNN that Guandique was about to be indicted for Levy's murder.