Updated 4:08 p.m.
Heavily redacted pleadings and transcripts released today in the Chandra Levy murder case didn't offer much new insight into recent secret proceedings, but they did confirm that lawyers for the man convicted of killing Levy believe new information has come to light that could undermine the government's case.
District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher sealed several hearings beginning in December after the U.S. attorney's office disclosed the existence of evidence that could impeach a government trial witness. He also put certain pleadings under seal. Today, as Fisher said would happen at a hearing last week, the court released redacted copies of the government's motion (PDF) to seal proceedings, the D.C. Public Defender Service's opposition (PDF), and transcripts from hearings in December and January.
The redactions concealed details on the witness issue, but the opposition filed by Ingmar Guandique's lawyers indicated that they thought the information was important. "Mr. Guandique and the public have a right to know precisely what happened at Mr. Guandique’s trial and why the government allowed its prosecution to be predicated on a lie," they argued in their brief. The new information, they wrote, "drastically undercut" the government's prosecution of Guandique.
The U.S. attorney's office had argued in its motion to seal that the new information "would pose a serious risk to the safety of the witness." During last week's hearing on February 14, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gorman said that the soon-to-be-released documents contained assertions by defense counsel that they did not agree with, and that they would respond to those statements at a later date.
Redacted transcripts showed that the parties sparred on December 18 (three-part transcript available here,
here) and January 4 (full transcript available here) over how much information prosecutors released to defense counsel, what information could be released to the public, and how much information defense lawyers could disclose to Guandique, who wasn't brought to court for those two hearings.
"The more we hide from the public, the less beneficial it is to Mr. Guandique, and the less chance we have of having a real check by the public and the press on what's going on here," said Jon Anderson of the Public Defender Service, according to the December transcript.
In asking that the government to turn over documents related to the new information, James Klein, who heads the Public Defender Service's appellate division, compared the situation to the controversy surrounding the prosecution of Ted Stevens, the late Alaska senator. In the Stevens case, a special prosecutor found that prosecutors concealed evidence. "We've lost a lot of time and we think we're entitled to these documents immediately…We can't say what these prosecutors knew or did not personally know," Klein said, according to the December transcript.
Prosecutors countered that certain protective measures were needed as both sides investigated the new information. "We're just taking this one step at a time because we cannot unring the bell. If something happens, we can't take that back," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, according to the December transcript.
According to comments from prosecutors, they had the new information regarding a trial witness as of late January 2012, and spent several months analyzing it before alerting the court in November. Beyond confirming that the information could be used to impeach a government trial witness, the public sections of the transcripts didn't offer any other details.
Guandique's lawyers argued that the protective order in place at the time prevented them from thoroughly investigating the new information. Fisher disagreed, and said the sealing orders were necessitated by "legitimate safety issues."
A jury convicted Guandique in 2010 of killing Levy, a 24-year-old congressional intern. The government's key witness was Armando Morales, who had shared a cell with Guandique and testified that Guandique told him he killed Levy.
Guandique, who was sentenced to 60 years in prison, has maintained his innocence and appealed his conviction to the D.C. Court of Appeals. That appeal was stayed in light of the recent proceedings in Superior Court.