Image: Ingmar Guandique, Chandra Levy
AP file
Jurors are set to decide the fate of Ingmar Guandique, who is accused of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy in 2001.
updated 11/17/2010 9:27:53 AM ET 2010-11-17T14:27:53

After a monthlong trial, jurors began deliberations in the Chandra Levy murder trial on Wednesday.

Ingmar Guandique is facing murder charges in the 2001 disappearance and death of Levy. The Washington intern's story made national headlines when she was romantically linked with Gary Condit, then a Democrat representing parts of California in Congress. Condit was initially the main suspect but police no longer believe he was involved.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Guandique's attorney said it was the former lawmaker — and not her client — who acted "like a guilty man" in the months after Levy went missing. Prosecutors maintained that Levy's death fits the pattern of other crimes committed by Guandique in 2001.

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The same "tunnel vision" that caused police to overzealously pursue Condit as a suspect in Levy's disappearance has now been unfairly trained on the man on trial for her murder, defense lawyers argued.

Still, the attorneys also used closing arguments to question Condit's behavior since Levy's disappearance. Ultimately, they argued, the government's case against a Salvadoran immigrant rests solely on lies by a prison inmate seeking to curry favor with the government.

Guandique is accused of murdering Levy nearly a decade ago 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 became a national sensation when she was romantically linked to Condit, who testified earlier this month that he had nothing to do with the disappearance or killing.

'Tunnel vision'
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.

Yet Sonenberg also focused much of her closing arguments on Condit. She pointed a finger in Condit's direction, though she never explicitly accused him of involvement.

"He does things like a guilty man," Sonenberg said of Condit's behavior in the months after Levy's May 2001 disappearance.

Sonenberg noted that Condit took the Fifth Amendment in grand jury testimony in 2002, which is allowed only when a witness believes he will incriminate himself by answering. Condit, in trial testimony, said he took the Fifth because he was angry at prosecutors who he believed were out to get him.

Video: Condit testifies in Chandra Levy trial (on this page)

Sonenberg also said that Condit repeatedly refused to answer whether he had an affair with Levy, even when asked directly during trial. Condit said during the trial that he was entitled to some privacy.

The defense attorney said there is powerful evidence of Guandique's innocence, including DNA from an unknown male found on Levy's 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. Sonenberg pointed out that the government could have checked the DNA against anybody who handled the tights, but apparently failed to do so.

Prosecutor: Use common sense
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 believe 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.

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Video: Condit’s son: Levy murder scrutiny ‘unfair’

  1. Transcript of: Condit’s son: Levy murder scrutiny ‘unfair’

    NATALIE MORALES, anchor: It has been nearly a decade since the murder of Washington intern Chandra Levy cast suspicion on then California Congressman Gary Condit . Well, this week the prosecution rested its case against Ingmar Guandique , who is charged with her murder. Well, now Gary Condit 's son Chad speaks out about his father's ordeal. Chad , good morning. Good to have you here.

    Mr. CHAD CONDIT (Son of Former Congressman Gary Condit): Thanks for having me.

    MORALES: As we said, you know, it's been nearly a decade, and your father is not the one on trial here. He's speaking out and he's testifying at the trial of Ingmar Guandique . But a -- does it seem that even now, nearly a decade later, that in the court of public opinion, that he is still on trial in some way?

    Mr. CONDIT: Well, I don't know about on trial, but certainly the 15,000 stories and cable news stories that projected him in a -- in a bad light certainly hurt public opinion.

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. CONDIT: And I don't -- I don't know anybody that could've stood up to that kind of scrutiny and that kind of coverage that happened to my dad.

    MORALES: How is he doing through all of this?

    Mr. CONDIT: He's good. He's held up well. Mom and Dad both have done well and been a tough go for the entire family. And I 'm proud of everybody.

    MORALES: Yeah. And given what you all have been through over the last nine years, how do you explain the 15,000-plus stories, the media scrutiny? Where did all of that come from, do you think? Why was that umbrella of suspicion around your father?

    Mr. CONDIT: I think part of it was Fox News just getting going, and they built it -- a lot of their network on Gary 's name, and they attacked him constantly. A lot of cable news did that. A lot of the newspapers did that. It was too good of a story to pass up, so to speak...

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. CONDIT: ...a congressman, a disappearance, sex, murder.

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. CONDIT: And people ran with that. But from day one, Gary and my sister and I said Gary didn't do anything, had nothing to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy .

    MORALES: Hm.

    Mr. CONDIT: And it come to prove that he was right and we were right. And...

    MORALES: But...

    Mr. CONDIT: Just real quick...

    MORALES: Yes.

    Mr. CONDIT: The folks back home, back in Central California , Modesto and Ceres and Turlock , places like that, I want to thank those folks for standing by.

    MORALES: Right.

    Mr. CONDIT: A lot of them stood by my dad and my mom.

    MORALES: Right.

    Mr. CONDIT: And I -- it means a lot.

    MORALES: Yeah, this has been very hard on your family. But a lot of the speculation has really been about the relationship that your father had with Chandra Levy . In fact, in court, it was -- some physical evidence was presented which appeared to suggest that there was a physical or sexual relationship. If your father did just come out and speak openly about whether or not they had a relationship, do you think that that scrutiny, perhaps, could've gone away, that there wouldn't be so much speculation?

    Mr. CONDIT: You know, there's a been a lot of, Natalie , a lot of misreports...

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. CONDIT: ...a lot of rumors and people that manipulated this case to their favor. So I don't know that a new PR strategy would've helped save Gary 's career and reputation. I just don't.

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. CONDIT: I think it -- we were beyond that. To make the stretch from sex to murder is, you know...

    MORALES: It's a big stretch, absolutely.

    Mr. CONDIT: ...a whole -- a whole -- a big stretch. And...

    MORALES: And an unfair stretch, you would say.

    Mr. CONDIT: Well, obviously, an unfair stretch.

    MORALES: Yeah. Will your father be speaking publicly about this at some point?

    Mr. CONDIT: Well, he has written a book with a gentleman, Bret Peace .

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. CONDIT: And him and Bret worked hard on the book, and we think that it's going to be a very interesting -- and a good read for folks and a lot of factual information that wasn't out there or reported on.

    MORALES: Wow . Chad Conduit , we appreciate you being here, speaking on your father's behalf. And of course we look forward to hearing your father, Gary Condit 's story when that book comes out.

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