(PIX11) — Four years ago, Chanel Lewis was sentenced to life in prison for the murder and sex abuse of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano.
The 2019 conviction came after a previous mistrial. Now, Lewis’ new lawyer, veteran civil rights attorney Ronald Kuby, is pushing for the conviction to be tossed based on what he described as bungled DNA evidence.
“Samples of DNA taken from Miss Vetrano were sent to an unapproved laboratory,” Kuby explained.
The laboratory, banned for state use at the time, is Parabon Labs based in Virginia. Only after the trial ended was the lab permitted to work for New York with its emerging forensic technology in 2020.
It used a process called “Phenotyping,” which infers someone’s race through DNA collected at the crime scene. Kuby says the lab used illegally by the NYPD determined the race of the alleged killer was Black or European.
“They didn’t focus on Europeans. They focused exclusively on African Americans based on that profile,” according to Kuby.
He said that led to a racial dragnet in Queens leading to the winter of 2017. That’s when the medical examiner ultimately ruled Lewis was a positive match found on Vetrano’s body.
The NYPD did not respond to PIX11’s inquiry about the allegation.
However, a spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney said:
“[Lewis] was not approached as part of a systematic effort by the NYPD to obtain samples, or in connection with any work done by Parabon labs.”
Attorneys for the 27-year-old said the laboratory DNA work has been withheld to this day.
Lewis’ mother, Veta, speaks to her son in state prison 280 miles away every day.
“I never lost hope or my faith. And I know that my son is innocent and has nothing to do with what happened to Miss Vetrano,” Lewis said.
Vetrano’s father, Phil Vetrano, told PIX11 News he will let this motion play out in court before commenting.