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Sparring at Levy trial

Testimony has yet to begin this morning in D.C. Superior Court in the trial of Ingmar Guandique, the man charged with killing Chandra Levy.

Lawyers for the prosecution and the defense have been sparring for more than an hour over evidentiary issues.

Maria Mendez, who was briefly a pen pal of Guandique's when he was in prison in 2003, is to retake the witness stand today for another round of questioning by prosecutors after being cross examined Tuesday by defense attorney Santha Sonenberg.

On Tuesday, a recording of a phone call between Mendez and Guandique was played in court. On the recording, Mendez mentions that she is afraid of Guandique because in a letter he sent to her explaining his situation, he talked about the death of a "girl."

"I need to feel safe," she said in the call, according to a transcript. " I don't. . .you know. The thing that there's a murder of a woman. That scares me very much."

At the time, Guandique was in prison for attacks on two women in Rock Creek park but he had also come under investigation in connection with death of Levy, who disappeared in 2001 and whose remains were found the following year in Rock Creek Park.

In this morning's first argument over evidence, Guandique's other lawyers, Maria Hawilo, Service, succeeded in limiting how much a DNA expert for the government will be able to say about the unknown male DNA that was found on running tights recovered near Levy's remains.

The government's expert was prepared to say the DNA most likely ended up on the garment after it was recovered. But because the defense was not given adequate notice of the expert's expected testimony, Judge Gerald I. Fisher ruled that the expert could not, at this stage of the trial, make such a conclusive statement.

Fisher did not limit the expert as much as Hawilo sought, however, and the judge said that that depending on what the defense says in its case about the DNA, the prosecution may be able elicit the expert opinion that at this point is being excluded.

The expert may testify today.

-- Henri Cauvin

More on this story: Full coverage | Major events | Key players

By Washington Post editors  | November 3, 2010; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Chandra Levy, From the Courthouse, Homicide  
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