Friday, November 26, 2010

Making Sense of the Chandra Levy Murder Verdict

After Tonya Craft's defense rested during her trial in Catoosa County, the prosecution had the opportunity to present rebuttal testimony. One of the things people wondered would be whether or not Chris Arnt and Len Gregor might try the "jumping on the bus" tactic in which someone who had shared a cell with Tonya after her arrest -- albeit briefly -- would testify that Tonya had "confessed" to her that she had been molesting children.

Few things in criminal cases have less reliability and invite more prosecutorial misconduct than the "cellmate snitch" tactic. Called "jumping on the bus," what often happens is that prosecutors and police feed information to the cellmate who then testifies that the accused "confessed" to him (or her) all the details of the crime. In return, the person testifying receives benefits like early parole, or a favorable plea deal.

The practice is insidious because it invites the worst kind of prosecutorial misconduct: Prosecutors knowingly introducing perjury and playing a role in constructing testimony that they know is not true. Unfortunately, this happens all the time, and the courts refuse to put a stop to it. Award-winning journalist Bill Moushey explains how this tactic works in federal court:
In Florida, prisoners call the scam "jumping on the bus," and it is as tantalizing as it is perverse. Inmates in federal prisons barter or buy information that only an insider to a crime could know — often from informants with access to confidential federal crime files.

The prisoners memorize it and get others to do the same. Then, to win sentence reductions, they testify about crimes that might have been committed while they were in prison, by people they’ve never met, in places they’ve never been. The scam succeeds only because of the tacit approval of federal law enforcement officers.

Cocaine smuggler Jose Goyriena used "jump on the bus" testimony to help federal prosecutors put three men in prison for life, and he was set to do it again for prosecutors who promised to cut his 27 year sentence by 10 years or more.

Prosecutors knew Goyriena had bragged about his lies to cellmates, but the prosecutors didn’t reveal what they’d heard to any of the men Goyriena had helped condemn — violating one of the fundamental tenets of American justice. It was defense attorneys who finally caught Goyriena in the scam.
People remember when the murder of Chandra Levy hit the headlines almost a decade ago. Originally, the prime suspect was Congressman Gary Condit (D-California), who had engaged in an affair with Levy. While no evidence pointed to him, nonetheless the adverse publicity destroyed his political career.

This was a "cold case." There was no DNA evidence, no body, and nothing to tie the case to anyone. However, Levy's body later was found and interest in the case resurfaced. Finally, the D.C. police decided to charge Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, with the crime. Guandique already was serving time for attacking joggers in D.C., and Levy supposedly had been jogging when she disappeared, so the link seemed worthwhile.

However, police had no other evidence by which to tie Guandique to the crime. That was not a barrier, unfortunately, as police used the "cellmate snitch" practice to square the circle, and D.C. prosecutors last week got a conviction against him. According to the Christian Science Monitor:
Prosecutors Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez obtained a conviction even though they had no eyewitnesses and no DNA evidence linking Guandique to Levy. And Guandique never confessed to police. Prosecutors hung their hopes in large part on a former cellmate of Guandique, Armando Morales, who testified that Guandique confided in him that he killed Levy.

Morales said Guandique was worried about being labeled a rapist by fellow inmates if word got out that he was a suspect in the Levy case. According to Morales, Guandique admitted killing Levy as part of an attempted robbery, but said he never raped her.

The government also presented testimony from two women who were attacked by Guandique in May and July of 2001 in Rock Creek Park. In both cases, Guandique attacked the women from behind while they jogged on isolated trails but ran off after each woman fought him off.

Defense attorneys said Morales' testimony couldn't be trusted. They also pointed to DNA from an unknown male that was found on Levy's black running tights. The DNA matched neither Guandique nor Condit, and the defense said it was powerful evidence that the wrong person was on trial. Prosecutors argued the DNA was the result of contamination during the testing process.
I'm sorry, but this is not "evidence" in any sense of the word. Unfortunately, the "journalists" covering this story did not try to find out what kind of deal was struck for Morales in exchange for his testimony.

Somehow, I doubt seriously that Morales simply testified out of his great concern for justice. Furthermore, this kind of testimony has a long and sordid history of being pure and unadulterated perjury, and while one cannot prove a negative, it is better not to introduce it at all unless a prosecutor can be 100 percent sure of its veracity.

Obviously, I cannot say that Guandique is innocent of the crime, but I can say that the evidence against him easily could have been evidence against anyone else that prosecutors chose to put on trial. There really was nothing specific to tie him directly to this murder other than very questionable testimony.

Why did prosecutor do it? First, there was a lot of pressure to "solve" the case, and American prosecutors today no longer care whether or not the person convicted actually committed the crime. No, they are way beyond that point; any warm body will do, just as long as there are no political ramifications for going after the wrong person.

Second, the courts are eager not only to "solve" cold cases, but also to allow in testimony that does not even fall into the "questionable" category. For all of the supposed sophistication of modern evidence gathering (as seen on TV), American courts today are quite primitive. Prosecutors, judges, and the compliant media are willing to let in outright lies or testimony that does not pass a smell test and then claim that brilliant sleuthing has "cracked" a case. It is a sign of the times, and the sign is sinister.


Anonymous said...

Correction. Guandique is an illegal alien, not an "illegal immigrant." His reason for coming to this country was to engage in criminal activitiy. He had a long rap sheet prior to 2001. There are a lot more besides him, to put it mildly.

Mr. Anderson seems not to notice that the very government he professes to hate, allows characters like Guandique into this country and often refuses to deport them. The libertarians tell us that the economy needs people like Ingmar Guandique. How, pray tell? used to be reasonably sane on the illegal alien issue, but have mostly reversed course in recent years. People who want to protect the border are now regularly mocked at with as much bile as the writer can muster.

Illegal aliens commit a LOT of violent crimes of which the evidence is overwhelming. A few years ago, a young woman was raped and murdered in her motel room in Knoxville, Tennessee by an illegal employed at the motel.

If Mr. Anderson's knee-jerk reaction is the suspect was framed, his DNA was present. The illegal pled to a sentence that will let him out of prison inside 30 years.

Anonymous said...

I believe Dr Anderson's point is nothing to do with illegal aliens, but rather the practice of prosecutors suborning perjury with immunity.

Anonymous said...

Well said 1:20. Way to go Mr Anderson. Keep it coming. We are not going to stop till somebody lisens..

Anonymous said...

There's no evidence that's "100 percent sure". This is another attack by bill on the system.

If it were up to bill there would be no prosecution. He hasn't offered an alternative but he clearly wants some other type means of a criminal justice system.

Anonymous said...

Au contraire! Dr Anderson has on many occasions advocated tweaks to the system to avoid prosecutorial misconduct. Not the least of which is to do away with dedicated prosecutors and have all lawyers in a community cycle through the role of prosecutor. Folks would act a little differently when they knew next month was their turn in the barrel. Also removing the absolute immunity that allows so many acts of misconduct by prosecutors to go unpunished. What I have taken away from these blogs is that there are bad people out there that need punishing, but in today's system they are the ones getting off lightly; all the while many DA's are breaking the rules and targeting those they know are likely innocent for a high conviction rate and perpetual political favor.

KC Sprayberry said...

Anon 8:36. Like the rest of us, Bill wants a criminal justice system that truly works as our forefathers intended it to. That means the criminals don't have more rights than victims. That prosecutors can't lie or come up with eleventh hour, obviously perjured evidence in an effort to win. The win at all costs mentality, lie all you want because you're doing the right thing in the long run mentality has spawned a travesty of the system. Laws intended to protect the innocent are now so diluted as to be laughable. Deals are made with true criminals, as those people know a quick deal will get them out of prison faster. Far too many people are accused of crimes that when view in a clear light, seem not only impossible but one has to wonder why anyone ever believed there was a prosecutable offense to begin with. The 'I can indict a ham sandwich' mentality must go. Instead, we need to take our system back to one of checks and balances, where the prosecutor isn't the individual to be wary of, where police actually help law abiding citizens, and where criminals fear the law instead of laugh at it. Instead of hiding behind the anon moniker, come on out like the rest of us. Maybe if you take off your blinders and stop supporting the justice system, you'll realize it really does need more than fixing. And before you accuse me of being one of those kooks, I have this to say. Several of my chiildren have broken the law and run to me to help them out of trouble. I always told them to take their punishment for what they did wrong. Two chose to stand with the criminal mentality - that is to blame their behavior on any little excuse they could come up with. Too bad they never had tough prosecutors/judges to slap them down when they first broke the law. They'd be better adults now. As for evidence not being 100% sure, I'd just like to see believable evidence.

Doc Ellis said...

Shared. Thank you for writing this

Doc Ellis 124

John Washburn said...

RE: If Mr. Anderson's knee-jerk reaction is the suspect was framed, his DNA was present.

Were you not reading the article? DNA from Guandique was NOT present.

If you do not believe Dr. Anderson's retelling of facts you can try the MSNBC version: "Prosecutors Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez obtained a conviction even though they had no eyewitnesses and no DNA evidence linking Guandique to Levy."

or the TBD version: "There was no DNA evidence linking Guandique to the crime, no eyewitnesses of an attack."

or the The pro-prosecution stenography version call Yahoo News: "No eyewitnesses. No confession to police. The only DNA evidence of any consequence belonged to an unknown mystery man."

The pro-prosecution stenography says it best: "The government had an overwhelmingly strong emotional case," said Grimm.

Mark Schamel, a former prosecutor now with the Womble Carlyle law firm who is familiar with D.C. Superior Court, agreed that emotional evidence can help overcome other deficiencies. He noted that prosecutors presented testimony from Shilling on the first day of trial.

"Emotional testimony can change the tenor of a trial, and it can be impossible to sway it back," Schamel said.

The only "evidence" linking Guandique to Chandra Levy is Armando Mouse Morales. This conviciton was not about evidence. This conviction was about closing an embarassing case by any means available.

Anonymous said...

I personally think those jail cell "confessions" should be tossed. There are just too many reasons to lie in jail, saving your ass being the biggest one. It's just like someone walking into a police station and confessing. Police have every right to detain the person and question them, but those confessions are viewed with utmost suspicion, as they should be. Is the person wanting attention? Is the person being forced to take the rap for someone? Is the person sane? The police will probably search for some type of evidence to verify the person's story.

Jail cell confessions are worse. It could be all of the above, PLUS the person could be bragging just to survive. Prisoners lie all the time. And this is assuming that Guandique actually said something akin to a confession. Of course, when you have someone with a motive to lie as his cell mate does then Guandique doesnt stand a chance.

without actual evidence linking Guandique to Levy, AND with actual evidence linking someone else to LEvy, this type confession is pure bs. It sucks because Guandique is probably scum. But so are the prosecutors. No question in my mind who is worse.

To the anon troll, read Bill's articles. You will then understand why we all chuckle when we read the typical drive-by posts you people put on here.

William L. Anderson said...

Thanks, John. The only "evidence" was that he had attacked other women jogging. While an M.O. is important, nonetheless one has to have other things that constitute evidence, and snitch testimony is not one of them.

We are seeing prosecutors engaging in the worst kind of appeal to emotion. The logical chain goes this way:

1. This is a horrible crime, and someone must be punished;
2. The accused COULD have done this crime, given the laws of probability;
3. Therefore, the accused must be convicted and punished.

In Tonya Craft's case, people were saying things like "If you don't believe the testimony the children gave, then you are calling them liars." Therefore, Tonya should be convicted.

Unfortunately, sentimentalism is what passes for law these days.

Trish said...

I think a huge point missed here is that while this person is indeed a criminal and already in prison, the fact is that because he has been convicted of this crime, the person who did kill her is still out there. Now, this case is closed, so they won't be looking for the real killer. I certainly have no sympathy for this person, but wrong is wrong!

William L. Anderson said...

Trish makes a good point. Prosecutors really don't care if he did it or not; they and the D.C. police have CLOSED the case, the family members can make statements at the sentencing, and the media will praise the cops for its non-sleuthing.

In other words, there is something for everyone. He already was in prison, so this verdict to the government is costless.

Furthermore, this whole trial was based on a number of fallacies that prosecutors now employ daily. And whenever emotionalism is the underlying base of a prosecution, we can see that prosecutors will not use facts or any real evidence. Instead, they will appeal to the emotions of a jury, and that works nearly every time.

Anonymous said...

The main reason the Chandra Levy murder was unsolved was the bungling of the D.C. police. From her computer, it was likely Miss Levy had gone to Rock Creek Park, probably to jog. The authorities made a half-hearted search and found nothing.

The press was set on Congressman Gary Condit as the main suspect. They were hoping for a high publicity trial with an ideal Great White Defendant. The trial of Ingmar Guandique didn't receive all that much attention outside of D.C., as he was not the type of defendant the media prefers.

A year later, a private citizen and his dog found human bones that turned out to be those of Chandra Levy. Because of the length of time, no DNA of a perpetrator could be traced.

I wouldn't have charged this case if it had been my decision.

The young woman murdered in the Knoxville, TN Days Inn motel room mentioned above was named Jennifer Lee Hampton. In June of this year, the suspect pleaded to a sentence of 51 years, not 30.

There was DNA on Miss Hampton's body from two others. The illegal alien defendant agreed to name his two partners in crime in return for the plea but refused to do so after it was signed and sealed.

Jennifer Hampton was not jogging alone like Chandra Levy. Nor was she getting in a car with 3 strange men while drunk like Natalie Holloway.

Miss Hampton was sleeping in a motel room when attacked, raped, and murdered. Unlike the Levy and Holloway cases, her death received no attention whatsoever from the national media and has gone down the memory hole.

David In TN

Anonymous said...

I love how the anon poster is comparing apples to oranges. For one, "illegal immigrant" "illegal alien", who cares about the wording. That is moot point. To my friends who are here legally, they agree with that sentiment. Also, you bring up a case in which there WAS DNA evidence & try to compare it to one without, so I'm really unsure of where you were going with that. In fact, I think that you don't know either. Just words from what I gather.

Also, Bill and many of us (some of us our in the legal field), do NOT "hate" our government, in fact, it's the complete opposite. We want our government back! The way it was intended.

Might I add, you sound like a complete racist. "A lot of illegal aliens commit violent crimes", really? What about us crazy white folk or the blacks or the Irish or the Italians or.......should I go on? I was kidnapped & raped by a white guy along with at least 2 other known females. So should we say that a LOT of violent crimes are committed by whites. I think you need to do some research & also do some soul searching while you're at it. Hate to tell you pooky bear, but if you look at the most violent crimes in this country, oh let's say serial killing, are done by white males. Oh wait, let's also bring up serial child molesters & murderers of small children....yes, the white folks get the honor of that one also.

You have managed to take everything Bill works so hard to expose & turn it into one or two words. Maybe you felt giddy after writing your little rant, but you should seriously look inside yourself & see who you really are.

As for jailhouse snitching, it goes on all of the time and it needs to be seen for what it is. Attempts for other criminals or true criminals to get reduced sentences or even probabtion. Do the research & you will be quite amazed. Do you honestly think that someone who may have committed the "perfect crime" would tell such a thing to some joker in a jail cell? I think not. I know the guy who raped me & others still tries to convince people (other prisoners) it wasn't him, although there was DNA, witnesses prior & his confession to his attorney, which ended with him plea bargaining.

I agree that Guandique is someone I don't want walking the streets, but I want it done in the proper way!!! Is that too much to ask? If so, then maybe I should walk around blindly, as you do, and just wait for my turn to be falsely accused of something.

Lord help you!


Anonymous said...

correction: some of us "are" in the legal field

trying to do 4 things at once.


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, regarding the race of serial killers, there are plenty of black serial killers. Since whites are the majority, there are more white serial killers on a numerical basis, but by percentage of population, black serial killers outnumber whites by a factor of two.

The best known example is Coral Eugene Watts, who took the authorities to where he buried some of his victims in return for a lesser sentence. Watts told some detectives that he had killed more people than the fingers and toes of the people in the room. There were four people in the room.

There have been several black serial killers apprehended in LA County in recent years who operated in South Los Angeles. The so-called South Side Slayer turned out to be 4-5 men. They were caught through DNA left on the victims.

The most recent was Lonnie Franklin, dubbed "The Grim Sleeper," whose victims were spread over some 20 years.

In 2009, John Floyd Thomas was arrested when his DNA matched that found on five murder victims. Thomas was the so-called "Westside Rapist." His victims were elderly women. Since Thomas began his life of crime in the 1950's, there is no telling how many people he killed.

You can research the above cases on the internet. The idea that serial that "serial killers are almost universally white males" is at variance with the facts.

David In TN

Rob said...

Anonymous @ November 26, 2010 11:48 AM:

Nice try with the red herring. However, you'll notice that most (if not all) of Dr. Anderson's supporters haven't fallen for it. Shouldn't you know better by now?

Anonymous said...

David, my point is still the fact that most are white. This anon poster wanted to bring race/ origin into the argument, & I simply wanted to point out facts. Yes, for right now, blacks/african americans are the minority, but I believe the latest census will show the numbers to be a great deal closer.

I'm using numbers based on just that, numbers. Not based on majorities, minorities or the such. Trust me, I have seen criminals in all shapes, sizes, races, creeds. You name it, I've seen it.

It would be like bringing in the city of Jacksonville, FL into it. It is the largest city in the country per land mass, but not in population (largest pop. in FL though). It is lower in crime, although it should be higher if you used statistics. See where I'm going? I know we're on the same "side", but I was trying to make a point to the racial slant the anon poster brought. I am very familiar with the cases you brought up, but for every one of those, there are at least 10 who supercede those per race. Just as if we brought in the argument of race on race crime, or male vs. female. There will always be an argument for all of it. I was trying to simplify it.

Basically, crime is crime, just as non-crimes guessed it, non-crimes.

Bill does an outstanding job in simplifying the cases he outlines. We are responsible for digging deeper, if we choose, but for the anon poster to spout out "non-statistics" & just basic "illegal aliens are committing a LOT of violent crimes", I went with the non-statistical & simple version of Americans committing violent crimes & "whites" have more than their fair share of them.