QUEENS — A jury found Chanel Lewis guilty Monday night in the 2016 murder of Queens jogger Karina Vetrano.
The decision came out after five hours of jury deliberation during a retrial, which began in mid-March. Lewis was found guilty on all counts. He faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Vetrano, 30, was killed as she ran on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens in August 2016. Prosecutors said Vetrano had been sexually abused. Her father discovered the body.
“For nearly six long months this woman’s murder remained a mystery,” Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan said. “Last year, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict and the trial ended with a mistrial. Today, following five hours of deliberations and careful consideration of all the evidence, the jury found Lewis guilty. It is my hope that as this case draws to a close, it will give the family of the victim some closure and comfort knowing her killer will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.”
Late Monday afternoon, the judge gave the jury instructions for deliberation in the case. It followed a request by Lewis’s attorneys on Monday morning for another mistrial. They’d filed their petition after a Legal Aid lawyer had sent them an anonymous letter saying investigators had done a “race-based dragnet” in their pursuit of a suspect following the August 2, 2016 murder and sexual assault.
“This is a complete miscarriage of justice. Judge Aloise also kept jurors for well over 12 hours — an unprecedented action — to extract a verdict,” a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society said. “Our client did not receive a fair trial. We will appeal immediately to a court that can afford Mr. Lewis the fair review he has thus far been denied.”
The closely watched case caused fear among women who run alone and baffled investigators, who for months were unable to find anyone who matched DNA that was found under the victim’s fingernails as she fought back. Lewis was eventually tested and linked to DNA found at the scene and on the victim, according to police.
Despite that DNA evidence and a taped confession, the first trial ended in a hung jury in November.
Defense attorney Jen Cheung has said Lewis did not commit the “awful crime,” a confession was coerced and DNA evidence is suspect.