A D.C. Superior Court judge on Wednesday defended his decision to keep documents and transcripts of hearings in the Chandra Levy murder trial sealed, despite requests from the media and attorneys for the man convicted of killing the former federal intern in 2001.
Judge Gerald Fisher said he is standing by his decision, but noted that the D.C. Court of Appeals is reviewing the petitions asking that newly filed documents and bench conferences in the case be unsealed.
The often-acrimonious, hour-long hearing, involving attorneys for The Washington Post, Associated Press, Gannett Co., McClatchy Co. and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, quickly became a hearing over the First Amendment and the media’s right to access.
Attorneys for the media filed motions with the court after Fisher last month ordered all transcripts and bench conferences sealed in hearings in the Levy murder case that have been called since December.
Attorneys for Ingmar Guandique, who was convicted of killing Levy, have requested a new trial based on what they say is new evidence regarding one of the main witnesses prosecutors used during Guandique’s trial.
Details of that new information and the witness remain under seal at the request of prosecutors.
It was unclear when the D.C. Court of Appeals planned to issue a ruling on the requests. Attorneys for the media also requested access to a hearing Thursday. Fisher said he would issue his ruling on access prior to the Thursday afternoon proceedings. Guandique, who is being flown from a federal prison, is expected to be present at Thursday’s hearing with his attorneys from the District’s Public Defender Service.
Guandique, 30, a Salvadoran in the United States illegally, was convicted in 2010 of first-degree murder after a high-profile, eight-week trial. He later was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The Levy case drew national attention because the intern had been having an affair with then-U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, a married congressman from her home town in California.