Judge denies motion to toss guilty verdict in Karina Vetrano case, sentencing Tuesday

Adam Warner
April 22, 2019 - 6:56 am
Katrina Vetrano

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) – A judge has denied a motion to toss the guilty verdict against Chanel Lewis in the case of murdered jogger Karina Vetrano.

The judge heard arguments from both sides at a court hearing in Queens on Monday regarding the defense's claim of juror misconduct in the conviction of Lewis.

A juror said he was improperly pressured to convict him, but the judge ultimately denied the defense's motion for a mistrial.

Lewis, who was convicted earlier this month, will be sentenced for Vetrano's murder Tuesday.

The 22-year-old faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.

At Lewis' trial, the jury only needed five hours of deliberations to find him guilty of killing Vetrano.

But a twist came in recent days when a juror told the judge he was pressured to find Lewis guilty and said he still has doubts about it.

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The juror, who wants to remain nameless, says he’s standing up to the system by speaking out. Prosecutors were expected to show sworn written statements from other jurors saying there was no such pressure.

Lewis’ mother Vita Lewis insists her son did not kill anyone.

“My son Chanel Lewis is innocent. All I want for my son is justice,” she said.

Going into the hearing, the juror has also told the judge that other jurors violated court orders not to discuss the case before deliberations began.

Lewis was accused of killing Vetrano, 30, as she ran on a trail in Howard Beach in August 2016.

Prosecutors say Vetrano had been sexually abused and strangled before her father discovered her body in the weeds.

"Jubilation. Justice. Justice has been served,'' the victim's father, Phil Vetrano, said to reporters while exiting court after Lewis’ conviction.

Robert Boyce, the NYPD’s chief of detectives, said the break came after police went back through 911 calls and found one reporting a suspicious person in the area near the attack. Lewis was tested and linked to DNA found at the scene and on the victim, Boyce said.

In his taped confession, Lewis told police that he was upset with a neighbor and that when he came across Vetrano on a secluded section of a marshland park, he "just lost it." He said he beat and strangled her but did not molest her.

"This girl jogging ... and you know, one thing led to another," he told detectives. "Hitting her and stuff like that."

Lewis' lawyers raised questions about whether prosecutors withheld key pieces of evidence favorable to the defendant, but the judge allowed the case to proceed.

His lawyers say police initially suspected two white men in Vetrano's killing, and that authorities withheld information regarding a 'race-based dragnet' that collected samples from 360 men.

Lewis' lawyers say they received an anonymous letter, purported to be from a police officer, indicating that police were looking for 'two jacked up white guys from Howard Beach.'

Forensic experts have said that Lewis' DNA matched DNA found on Vetrano's neck, cellphone, and under her fingernails. Lewis also had a hand injury that a doctor said was consistent with punching someone.

The defense has argued that Lewis gave a coerced confession after 11 hours in custody and 4 hours in a police interrogation room.

Lewis was tried for the murder for the first time in November, with the trial ending with a hung jury.

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