Sentencing of Chanel Lewis moves forward despite allegations of jury misconduct

KEW GARDENS, Queens -- Despite a juror stepping forward to say that laws were broken by the group of 12 women and men who convicted Chanel Lewis, 22, of the murder and sexual abuse of Karina Vetrano, 30, a judge ruled Monday that Lewis will be sentenced for the crimes on Tuesday morning.

Lewis' mother arrived at the courthouse with nothing to say at the time. Meanwhile, the murder victim's father, Phil Vetrano, made only a brief comment on his way in to the hearing that sought to have the guilty verdict thrown out.

"I know what's going to happen today," he said, in response to PIX11's question asking what he was expecting.

That sense of knowing left supporters of Lewis upset later. They felt that the hearing was a formality, since Judge Michael Aloise set a Tuesday sentencing date at the same time that he’d scheduled Monday's mistrial hearing.

At that hearing on Monday morning, one of the jurors who convicted Lewis spoke from the stand, on the record. Christopher Gooley, 31, said that he'd felt intimidated to come to a guilty verdict, quickly.

Gooley said that the immediate, into-the-night deliberation after closing arguments was coercive, and so were comments from the jury foreman and other jurors.

Regarding one exchange Gooley had had with another juror, identified only as Juror No. 9 during jury deliberations, Gooley said, on the stand, "If I'm sitting there... and you're putting me in my place, I feel I couldn't get my thoughts out."

Specifically, said Gooley, Juror No. 9 had said that she'd survived a rape herself. She’d further said, according to Gooley, that questions he’d had that were skeptical of Vetrano having been sexually abused, were invalid because of his gender.

"His manhood was questioned," Gooley's attorney, Vinoo Varghese, said outside of court on Monday. "He was told by [Juror No. 9] he couldn't deliberate because he was a man."

However, prosecutors called Juror No. 9 to testify on Monday. She said, on the record, regarding Gooley’s claims, "I had to laugh because it was so outrageous. I had never been a rape victim and I don't know why anyone would say that."

Also, another juror, identified only as Juror No. 3, was called by prosecutors. Juror No. 3 said he "could not recall" statements that would have tainted the jury.

It was enough to spur the judge to deny the request of Chanel Lewis's attorneys to toss out his guilty verdict.

Lewis's mother, as well as about a dozen supporters, including New York State Assemblymember Charles Barron, exited the courtroom shouting "Justice for Chanel!"

"From day one, my son is innocent," Veta Lewis said after the hearing, outside of court. She is convinced that her son was framed by investigators, who stand by DNA evidence from Chanel Lewis that was found on Karina Vetrano's phone and neck, as well as extensive medical reports showing that Lewis had to be treated at a hospital emergency room the day after Vetrano's murder for significant hand injuries.

After Monday's hearing, Karina Vetrano's family did not speak. However, Lewis's mother referenced the Vetranos' daughter in a one-on-one interview with PIX11 News after the retrial request was denied.

"This young lady, her spirit is not rested," Veta Lewis said. "She's crying out to them, because they haven't caught the real killers."

The sentencing is set for Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. Chanel Lewis faces up to life in prison, without parole.

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