For nearly two-and-a-half hours yesterday, six lawyers – three prosecutors and three defense attorneys – crowded around District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher's bench. With the husher on, the rest of the courtroom couldn't hear their conversation, save for the defendant and one of his lawyers seated at counsel table listening in via headphones.
It was the latest in a series of secret proceedings in the case of Ingmar Guandique, who was convicted in 2010 of killing 24-year-old congressional intern Chandra Levy. But Fisher said that the veil could be lifted in the near future, publicly announcing at the end of the hearing that transcripts and pleadings from previous hearings in December and January – albeit redacted ones – would become available as early as next week.
Fisher didn't elaborate further, but Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gorman hinted that those proceedings were contentious. In a public statement made to the courtroom at the end of the hearing, Gorman said that the documents would include assertions by defense counsel that the government didn't agree with, and that they would respond at another time.
Most of the proceedings and documents filed in the case have been sealed since December, after prosecutors notified the court of possible impeachment evidence related to a trial witness. A group of media organizations filed a motion to unseal information in the case, which Fisher denied earlier this month, citing unspecified "compelling interests."
The D.C. Public Defender Service, which is representing Guandique, also objected to the sealing orders, filing its own unsuccessful motion to reverse them before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
In one of the few statements made on the record yesterday, Fisher said the hearing had to do with discovery issues. Members of the press were given the option of leaving the courtroom and returning for any public statements, or staying in the courtroom, with the understanding that proceedings would have to take place at the bench. They chose to stay.
Guandique spent most of the hearing seated at the counsel table with Public Defender Service lawyer Santha Sonenberg, and listened through headphones with a Spanish-language translator. At one point Guandique, who was shackled, went up to the bench to participate in the discussion for several minutes, but he didn't make any public statements.
Fisher said the redacted pleadings and transcripts would become available next week, but he didn't specify a date. Another hearing is scheduled for April 11.