crimesider

Chandra Levy Update: Murder Trial Begins Despite Defense Objections about Jury

Chandra Levy (AP Photo, file)
Chandra Levy Update: No Hispanic Representation on Jury, No Fair Trial Says Defense
Chandra Levy (AP Photo, file)

WASHINGTON (CBS/WUSA/AP) Opening statements were heard Monday in the murder case of Washington intern Chandra Levy, despite an argument from the defense that the man accused of slaying Levy nearly a decade ago could not have a fair trial without any Hispanics on the jury.

PICTURES: Chandra Levy Murdered

Ingmar Guandique, an alleged gang member and illegal immigrant from El Salvador, is charged with the attempted sexual assault, kidnapping and killing of 24-year-old Chandra Levy while she was jogging in the city's Rock Creek Park in May 2001, according to CBS affiliate WUSA.

Prosecutors acknowledged that they have no physical evidence or eyewitnesses in Levy's slaying, but say Guandique confessed to the murder to cellmates and that Levy's death was similar to two other attacks he made on young women in Rock Creek Park in the spring and summer of 2001.

Halle Shilling, one of the two women assaulted by Guandique in 2001, testified Monday that the defendant followed her on an isolated jogging trail and attacked her from behind. She said she escaped only because she remembered a self-defense move and lodged her fingers into Guandique's mouth, and that he bit her and then ran off.

Guandique was serving 10 years in prison for those Rock Creek Park attacks when he was charged in the Levy case. He says he had nothing to do with Levy's death, according to WUSA.

Prosecutors told the jury that police originally flubbed the investigation because they were mistakenly focused on Gary Condit, the former California congressman who was romantically linked to Levy. 

Conduit, who was once a suspect in the investigation, expects to testify according to a spokesman for him. Police no longer believe he was involved with Levy's death.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Amanda Haines told the jury that "law enforcement really let Miss Levy and her family down. They veered in the wrong direction because of the media and sensationalism."

Defense attorney Maria Hawilo ridiculed the prosecution's case and said Guandique has been made a scapegoat. Hawilo said DNA evidence found on Levy's jogging tights in Rock Creek Park did not come from Guandique, Condit or Levy.

Prosecutors claim the DNA is likely a result of contamination in the evidence handling process.

The trial is expected to last at least a month.

COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE CHANDRA LEVY CASE