WASHINGTON – Lawyers for the man convicted of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy are asking for a new trial by claiming juror misconduct and an inappropriate closing argument by prosecutors.
Lawyers for Ingmar Guandique filed the motion for a new trial Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court. The filing says that one juror improperly used the notes of others in reaching a verdict during Guandique's trial late last year. In addition, prosecutors improperly appealed to the jury's emotions and facts that weren't part of trial evidence in making a graphic final statement, the lawyers contend.
"It was as if the prosecutor were narrating a horror movie, with its tricks of foreshadowing to whip up fear in the audience. But this was not a movie; it was supposed to be a trial during which the jury clinically evaluated the facts," Guandique's lawyers wrote.
The 17-page document says that at the outset of the trial, jurors were told that they could take notes if they wished but that jurors who did not should rely on their memory and "should not be influenced by another juror's notes." A similar instruction was given at the trial's end.
Once the jury was released, however, one juror told a newspaper reporter that a juror who had not taken notes was given others' notes to review over the weekend before coming back and agreeing to convict.
Guandique's lawyers also said that prosecutors' closing argument during the trial was improper because it was full of "appeals to the jury's emotions and references to facts not in evidence."
For example, the jury was told that it was Guandique's face that Levy "looked up at and begged for mercy" and "his face that was the last face that she saw as she laid there naked and disabled." But no evidence presented at trial detailed the end of Levy's life, Guandique's lawyers wrote.
A spokesman for the prosecutors' office declined comment on the motion, noting the matter is pending before a judge.
Guandique's conviction came nearly a decade after Levy disappeared in May 2001. Her disappearance drew widespread attention when she was romantically linked with Gary Condit, then a California congressman. Condit was initially suspected by police, but they later indicated they no longer believed he was involved.
A year after the disappearance, Levy's remains were discovered in Washington's Rock Creek Park, where she had gone jogging. Guandique, a Salvadoran immigrant who had been convicted of attacking other women in the same park, was charged with Levy's death in 2009.
Prosecutors had no physical evidence or eyewitnesses linking Guandique to Levy's death but said it fit the pattern of his other attacks. In addition, a former cellmate of Guandique's testified that while Guandique was in prison on other charges he acknowledged he killed Levy.
Guandique faces up to life in prison at a sentencing hearing currently scheduled for Feb. 11.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects that juror's statement was not made at news conference)