Constitutional Law

Closed hearings, sealed docs and gag order as convicted Chandra Levy killer seeks new trial

Closed-door hearings are expected to continue concerning a convicted killer’s request for a new trial in the high-profile Chandra Levy murder case, after the District of Columbia Court of Appeals agreed with a trial judge Thursday that the safety of a witness justified sealing documents for a limited time.

It is unclear exactly why convicted murderer Ingmar Guandique, 30, is seeking a new trial, because all hearings and documents have been sealed and lawyers are under a gag order, reports the Washington Post (reg. req.). Guandique was flown in from a federal prison in Alabama for a D.C. Superior Court hearing in the nation’s capital yesterday.

Guandique’s public defenders told the judge that new information received by prosecutors concerning a key witness mandates a new trial, according to the newspaper.

A McClatchy Newspapers article says Guandique’s lawyers as well as a lawyer for media organizations sought at a previous Wednesday hearing to have the proceedings open to the public.

However, “I do find that closure is essential,” said District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher, explaining Wednesday that the right of public access is not absolute.

“I strongly believe that there is a presumptive public right of access to court proceedings,” the judge stated, even as he also declined to make public transcripts from earlier hearings in December and January.

Another hearing is expected to take place on Feb. 14, reports USA Today.

Levy’s murder made headlines after it became known that she had reportedly been having an affair with a married congressman from her hometown while she was working in the nation’s capital as an intern for the bureau of prisons.

Additional coverage: “9 Years Later, Trial Begins in Death of Chandra Levy” “Ingmar Guandique Convicted in Chandra Levy Murder Case”

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