Jury begins deliberating in Chandra Levy murder trial

By Michael Doyle

McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 17 2010 11:08 p.m. MST

WASHINGTON — Jurors on Wednesday began deliberating in the trial of the man accused of killing Chandra Levy.

Following 10 days of testimony that began Oct. 25, and after closing arguments that lasted much of Tuesday, the 12 jurors reconvened behind closed doors about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The nine female and three male jurors were appointed randomly from a jury panel of 16 members. All 16 sat through the entire trial, not knowing whether they were regular jurors or alternates until D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher revealed their status late Tuesday afternoon.

The four alternates will remain under the same requirement to avoid discussing the case or researching it independently until a verdict is returned.

"I know this hasn't been easy for anyone," Fisher told the jury panel members Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique killed the 24-year-old Levy on May 1, 2001, in Washington's Rock Creek Park. Guandique's defense attorneys call the case weak, noting the lack of physical evidence and the prosecutors' reliance on a prison snitch.

Jurors have several decisions to make.

After whittling a larger case, prosecutors ultimately charged Guandique with two counts of felony murder. One count asserts Guandique killed Levy during an attempted robbery. The other count asserts Guandique killed Levy during a kidnapping.

The kidnapping was when Guandique dragged Levy off of the Western Ridge Trail at Rock Creek Park, according to prosecutors.

Jurors will consider each count separately. It's possible they could find Guandique guilty of both, one, or neither. In a small victory for prosecutors, the jurors also can consider the lesser charge of second-degree murder if they don't think first-degree felony murder matches the facts.

A second-degree murder charge means that Guandique showed conscious disregard for Levy's life during a felony, even if he didn't intend to kill her.

Guandique faces a potential sentence of 30 to 60 years in prison if convicted of felony murder. A second-degree murder conviction can bring a sentence of 20 to 40 years. The District of Columbia does not have the death penalty.

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