Federal prosecutors changed their mind on Friday and finally gave in to long-held demands to have a new jury hear the case against a man convicted in the 2001 killing of intern Chandra Levy. Attorneys for Ingmar Guandique have been arguing for more than a year that a former gang leader who issued crucial testimony lied when he said that his onetime cellmate Guandique had confessed to killing Levy. The “stunning legal reversal,” according to McClatchy, would mean that defense attorneys won’t get to cross-examine the original prosecutor over how she handled that key witness who has now come under fire because he was cooperating with prosecutors in other cases.
If the judge grants the request by the defense it means the mystery that engulfed Washington for years could return to the spotlight a case that “was challenging for authorities from the start,” notes the Washington Post. Guandique was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison even though there was no forensic evidence, no murder weapon and no eyewitness accounts, which is why the questioned testimony was so important for the 2010 trial. Despite the reversal, the prosecution insists it remains confident that Guandique is guilty. “We remain firm in our conviction that the jury’s verdict was correct and are preparing for a new trial to ensure that Mr. Guandique is held accountable,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. Still, “The interests of justice will therefore be best served by the government’s withdrawal of its opposition to the defendant’s motion and affording him a new trial.”