Introducing the debut of Washington City Paper‘s blogging series on the centrality of jailhouse snitches to the case against Ingmar Guandique, the illegal immigrant from El Salvador against whom local authorities filed an arrest warrant on March 3 in connection with the murder of Chandra Levy.

When Ingmar Guandique first learned that he’d likely be arrested for murdering Chandra Levy, he didn’t hide his emotions, according to court documents. Rather, he said, “Fuck, it’s over. They got me now. What am I gonna do?” How do authorities know he said that?

A jailhouse snitch. Guandique is currently serving time for other attacks in California, and he apparently has no problem running his mouth. Guandique’s arrest warrant hinges on testimony from multiple fellow inmates.

And how strong a case is that going to be?

Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer might have something to say about that. Back in 2000, they wrote Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted. In a chapter titled “Snitch,” the authors describe how multiple jailhouse sources can all of a sudden materialize:

“Informants will swarm to a hot case…and the first one there will organize a ‘booking.’ That is the term for incriminating admissions that the first inmate will claim to have heard from the target. Then the first snitch will recruit a second one to back up the story about hearing a confession. This corroborates the primary snitch, and allows the second one to ‘get in the car’—-the metaphor for cutting short a jail stay by snitching.”

Is this what’s happening in the Chandra case. Not according to authorities, who say that they’ve carefully vetted their witnesses.

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