Vetrano murder trial: Case to proceed despite defense’s ‘race-biased dragnet’ claim

NEW YORK — The retrial of a man accused of killing Karina Vetrano in her Howard Beach neighborhood nearly three years ago will proceed, a judge ruled Monday, despite the defense team’s accusations of a “race biased dragnet.”

Defense attorneys have raised questions about evidence — specifically, if prosecutors may have withheld critical evidence in the case.

Chanel Lewis, 22, is charged with sexually assaulting and murdering Vetrano on Aug. 2, 2016.

Lewis’s first trial ended in a hung jury in November 2018.

A defense attorney on Lewis’s team claims investigators used a “race-biased dragnet” to collect DNA samples from 360 black men before targeting Lewis. His attorneys question if prosecutors withheld critical evidence about the wide genetic pool and if police initially suspected two white suspects.

The new questions come after the defense reportedly received an anonymous letter late last week after both sides rested their cases, according to the New York Times, which cited a spokesperson for the legal aid society.

This could have lead to a second mistrial, but a judge said Monday the case will move forward.

Prosecutors argue Lewis confessed to the murder, and point to his DNA, found on Vetrano’s body and cellphone.

The defense team, however, claims the confession was coerced.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.