Jury selection nears finish in Chandra Levy slaying
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 8:03 PM
The judge and attorneys in the Chandra Levy murder trial narrowed the field of potential jurors to 41 Thursday, and they expected to complete the job Friday of picking 16 people to hear the case.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher and the attorneys spent about three hours interviewing the last of about 50 potential jurors. On Friday, the defense and prosecution will each get a chance to remove as many as 12 jurors as a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates is chosen to hear the case.
Opening statements in the trial of Ingmar Guandique are scheduled to start Monday.
Guandique, 29, was arrested last year and charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual abuse, among other charges, in connection with the death of the former intern who disappeared in May 2001. Levy's skeletal remains were found a year later.
At the time of his arrest, Guandique was serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison in California for assaulting two other women at knifepoint in Rock Creek Park about the same time that Levy, 24, disappeared.
Levy's disappearance generated international attention because she had been having an affair with then-Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.), who represented the district that includes her home town of Modesto.
Guandique is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, and he is allegedly a member of the gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
Concerns about perceptions of gangs and illegal immigrants and about the extensive media attention on the case have complicated jury selection.
One potential juror, a lobbyist, said she was working as a Capitol Hill staffer when Levy disappeared. She said that given her knowledge of the case, "it would be difficult" to be objective. She was dismissed.
Another prospect said she would have difficulty believing the testimony of gang members. She too was dismissed.
Among those potential jurors who were asked to return Friday was a District resident whose parents were born in Puerto Rico. During hearings leading up to the trial, Guandique's attorneys had concerns about the possible lack of Hispanics on the jury.