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February 14, 2013

Attorneys revisit Chandra Levy case

#Justice Dept. lawyers and defense attorneys huddled with a judge for nearly two-and-a-half hours on Thursday afternoon, working out discovery issues in the ever-unfolding Chandra Levy mystery.

Under the first-watchful, then bored, then distracted, and then watchful once-more gaze of eight or nine reporters, the attorneys talked among themselves and D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher. Though their discussions were masked by the courtoom's white noise generator, Fisher said at the end of the hearing that redacted briefs and transcripts of two prior hearings could be made public in about a week.

The reporters keeping themselves entertained while observing lawyers say things that couldn't be heard include some characters, like the Washington Post's Keith Alexander, Fox 5's Paul Wagner and Mark Segraves, now with WRC-TV, who had covered the original November 2010 murder trial that ended in the conviction of Ingmar Guandique. The reporter gaggle also included others, like USA Today investigative reporter Brad Heath, WTOP's bike-loving Kate Ryan and the National Law Journal's University of Pennsylvania-educated Zoe Tillman, who are relative newcomers to the seemingly never-ending Levy case.

The hearings that began in December, sealed so far, deal with government revelations that impeachment information has been obtained concerning one of the prosecution's witnesses. The identity of the witness and the nature of the information has not yet been made public, and it's not entirely clear whether this information will be part of what's released in a week or so.

Fisher said the hearing Thursday was to deal with discovery. This could mean, for instance, how the defense attorneys will find out what the government knew and, crucially, when the government knew it. Periodically throughout the hearing, the three Justice Department attorneys and three appellate defense attorneys would peel away into separate huddles to hash out positions.

For most of the session, the man convicted of killing Levy, Ingmar Guandique, sat at a table, occasionally conversing quietly with defense attorney Santha Sonenberg. With no jury to impress, he was in full prison regalia: orange jumpsuit and shackles, with some well-muscled U.S. Marshals Service dudes standing close by at all times.

Another hearing is scheduled for April 11. In the meantime, Guandique has apparently been relocated from the Talladega Federal Correctional Institution in Alabama to the D.C. area.



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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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