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Attorneys argue over letter as Levy jurors deliberate

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By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 17, 2010; 10:21 PM

The jury in the Chandra Levy murder trial retired for the day Wednesday after about six hours of deliberations without reaching a verdict. Deliberations were scheduled to resume Thursday morning.

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But even as the panel of nine women and three men met in a back room, attorneys in the case continued to argue in D.C. Superior Court over the evidence jurors should see as they consider the case of Ingmar Guandique, who is charged with killing Levy in 2001.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez argued unsuccessfully that jurors should be able to read a letter associated with the government's key witness, Armando Morales. Morales shared a prison cell with Guandique in 2006 and testified that Guandique had admitted killing Levy.

Morales and another inmate wrote a letter to the Justice Department detailing Guandique's confession, according to prosecutors.

During closing arguments Tuesday, Guandique's lead attorney, Santha Sonenberg, told the jury that Morales was "coached" by the prosecution and suggested that information in Morales's letter differed from his testimony as a result of that coaching. Sonenberg repeatedly suggested that if jurors wondered why the letter was not introduced as evidence, they should look to prosecutors for answers.

Prosecutors expressed outrage at the accusations. Campoamor aggressively tried to get the letter in front of the jurors to rebut Sonenberg's assertions.

Campoamor told Judge Gerald I. Fisher that Sonenberg was "attacking the government" and that if the letter is not admitted, "we can't prove what was in the letter."

"Jurors won't be able to assess whether to believe her argument that important details were missing or that Mr. Morales was coached by us," Campoamor said. "We are hampered in our ability to counteract efforts by the defense about [Morales] being coached if the jury doesn't have the letter and evaluate for themselves," Campoamor argued.

Fisher rejected Campoamor's request, ruling that the letter should have been admitted during the trial, not during deliberations.

Guandique, 29, is charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder. Levy, 24, went missing May 1, 2001, and her body was found about a year later. During their deliberations, the jurors sent a note to the judge to request a photo of Guandique that had been admitted as evidence but not provided to the jury.


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